Witty Banter For Teenage Girls

Photo Joseph Ste. Marie Photography.

Photo Joseph Ste. Marie Photography.

None of the Above was… cute.  It follows the story of Jamie (Lily MacLean), a teenage girl emotionally neglected by her rich family, and Clark (Scott Humphrey), her starving-graduate-student SAT tutor.  Though at first at odds, they develop an unlikely bond and realise that they are not as different as they once thought.

The play brushed against some interesting themes but did not have the fortitude to do anything with them.  It explored the psychology of different social classes by showing that though the immediacy of the characters’ needs were different, the poignancy of these needs was equal for both of them.  The play also touched briefly on the commercialization of education –- Jamie is furious to find out how much Clark is being paid to tutor her, and how her mind is being treated like a commodity. Again, it got close to making an interesting point, but no, back to the supposed Witty Banter.

The story of a teacher and a student who develop a truce is just so terribly old, and the story of two opposites who simmer with sexual tension is even older –- and has been done much better.  The sexual tension here did not simmer.  It petered out with barely a sad, burping bubble.  The characters were cardboard cut-outs, and the banter was far from witty.  Both the smug and the vulnerable moments felt deeply contrived, and the characters were a weird mish-mash of stereotypical behaviour.  Teenage girls like nail polish, so Jamie briefly grabs a bottle and absent-mindedly flicks the brush over one or two nails. Nerds like to count, so Clark has a compulsion to count the words in every sentence.

So was this show a complete disaster?  No.  It just didn’t know how to sell its own stale self-indulgence.  As I watched, there was a voice in the back of my head reminding me that I might turn my nose up now, but only a few years ago, I would have been eating this up.  This could have been the show that gets teenage girls interested in theatre.  Think about it –- the tacky emotional development, obnoxious protagonists, the pity parties…  The perfect romantic comedy for a teenage girl.  This could have, in all its annoyingness, been that play, the one we’ve all been waiting for, the one that would snap up a young audience and keep them hooked on the theatre for the rest of their lives.

For the love of theatre, put some slightly more decent clothes on your protagonist and go on a tour of Montreal’s all-girl schools!  You could be the missing link between children’s theatre and adult theatre.  Away with you!

None of the Above is playing at the Mainline Theatre until November 30.  8 p.m. Saturday second show at 2 p.m. $20/$15.