Sticky Girls, The Anti-Reality Show
nytheatre.com review by Terri Galvin
July 17, 2006
Most of us would probably agree that, at their worst, daytime talk shows are television's equivalent of a particularly gruesome car wreck, repulsing us even as we're transfixed by their tawdry exhibitionism. What seems to be debatable, however, is whether this appallingly primal phenomenon should be condemned, celebrated, or satirized. With Sticky Girls: The Anti-Reality Show, a backstage peek into this much reviled spectacle, playwright Linda Evans rolls up her sleeves and enters into the fray.
As the studio stage manager (Mark Mitchell) rehearses our applause cues and "collective gasps," and we witness Roxy's relentless pre-show coaching, our worst suspicions concerning audience feedback and "expert" guests are confirmed. Obviously, Roxy (Sharon O'Connell) and her team could have taught P.T. Barnum a trick or two about suckers and snake oil.
But even the Greatest Show on Earth couldn't have dreamt up the volatile combination of troubled "sticky girls" Geo and Harley with NYPD veteran Sergeant Manley, recruited to "scare these girls straight." Since "nothing is too big for sweeps week," it's not long before telegenic Manley (David Copeland) swaps his measured, compassionate approach for a redneck twang, a drill sergeant bark, and an awfully menacing nightstick.
When the results prove less than ratings-worthy, however, the teens are thrown into a backstage "holding cell"—with regrettably lackluster consequences. What promised to be a series of histrionic confrontations now limps off in a succession of static, often tedious, character revelations.
At which point, a typical Jerry Springer audience might start tossing chairs.
Under the circumstances, the actors do what they can. Robustly portrayed by Jennifer Loryn, Geo is an impish little spitfire, poignantly acting out against her distant mother, a famous designer who, at the last minute, cruelly refuses to participate in an on-air mother-daughter reunion. Contrasting with this firecracker of gangsta rebellion is Robin Long's ethereal, lyrical Harley, whose endeavor to market her own brand of salsa has reversed a history of promiscuity and other self-destructive choices. Harley's stylized voice poses a challenge for Long, and her rhapsodic pronouncements on human nature ("Geo, the hole your mother left can't be filled by a boyfriend!") constitute an unfortunate variation on the wise-beyond-her-years cliché—the redemptive, mysterious powers of salsa notwithstanding.
Beyond salsa, there's not much that's mysterious (or subtle) about this production, but there are elements that baffle. The holding cell premise feels contrived, the passage of time is vague, and the lack of an even rudimentary set results in sporadic confusion as to where the action is taking place (exacerbated by actors occasionally walking through the implied holding cell bars).
Ironically, some of what's lacking here is readily apparent in the standard formula of the very genre Evans depicts: gather highly combustible personalities, manipulate the circumstances enough to ignite a spark, and, finally (crucially), edit ruthlessly until the resulting conflagration is distilled down to its most exhilaratingly dramatic essence. When done well, this recipe yields a mesmerizing theatricality that can seduce television and theatre viewers alike. When parodied so half-heartedly, however, who would blame even the most evolved audience for wanting to bring on the skinheads, clobber the host, and set the studio ablaze?