Regional Reviews: Chicago
Also see John's review of Drum Circle Pandora
While this may seem to be the setup for a major yuck factor, O'Connor navigates it fairly well. She maintains a decent sense of balance between empathy for her characters while compassionately satirizing their flaws. She's a little more sympathetic to the girls than the men, gently mocking Emmy's false sense of maturity and Claire's naiveté while showing the guys to be barely more mature than the girls. And clearly, the guys are shown to have no idea that their romantic targets are underage, so unlike many of the plays on this and other Chicago stages in recent years, it's not a story of sexual predators. Even so, the situation may leave you uncomfortably wondering if it's okay to laugh at O'Connor's insights into these people. By the close of the play, you see some other themes emerge. Does the willingness of the men to objectify the women at the nightclub increase the probability of something going wrong? If the men took the time to get to know women a little better before trying to bed them, would some disasters be averted? And what's up with a society and support systems that don't recognize kids mature at different rates and won't protect them from themselves when they take actions without knowing the risks involved or whether they're ready for them?
The pairs of men and girls are symmetrically drawn. Emmy, like Mark, is also full of false bravado. Claire, like Robert, is grieving a loss of her own as her father recently passed away. Our ability to stay with this story in spite of its potentially disturbing content is largely to the credit of Eric Burgher as Robert and Rae Gray as Emmy, carefully directed by Joe Jahraus. Burger's Robert is never leering or lustful, but confused and sensitive enough to make us believe he's essentially a good guy and worthy of our concern. Ms. Gray, a freshman at the University of Chicago, is innocent but aware that her deception regarding he age will have consequences. Zoe Levin, as Emmy, plays the "bad girl" without resorting to stereotype. She's a bit more successful than Shane Kenyon as Mark, who has the character's cockiness and swagger down pat, but could inhabit his character more physically and fully.
The set by Sotirios Livaditis, with help from lighting designer Jess Harpenau, cleverly transforms Profiles' tiny playing space into Claire's bedroom, the dance floor and restrooms of a nightclub and an apartment. The production design helps keep the action fluid so that the story can be told in about 80 minutes without intermission, a playing time that seems just about right for this delicate and potentially disturbing story.
Jailbait will be performed Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. at Profiles Theatre, 4147 N. Broadway, Chicago through October 17, 2010. Tickets can be purchased online at www.profilestheatre.org or by phone at (773) 549-1815