So it's not surprising that Itamar Moses and Gaby Alter have attempted to spoof the genre in their new musical, Nobody Loves You, now at San Diego's The Old Globe, but it's difficult to spoof something that is already so heightened.
The work focuses on a reality/game show where contestants are coupled up for a week by the holder of Cupid's Scepter of Love and assigned to such venues as the Jello Room, Mirror Room, 3D Room, Pillow Fight Room, and the Hot Tub Room. In the episode's climatic scene, "Crush or Be Crushed," contestants write the name of their crush on a Mix CD, and the person unlucky enough not to receive one is told by the overly jovial, word-challenged host (Heath Calvert, earning a lot of laughs) to pack their bags "because Nobody Loves You."
Jeff (Adam Kantor) sends in an angry audition tape after his live-in girlfriend Tanya (Nicole Lewis) finally leaves him and says she's applying to be on the show. Producer Nina (Lewis again) likes Jeff's attitude and casts him, even though Tanya wasn't cast. But Jeff decides to stay and research material for his Ontology dissertation on "Reality versus Perception."
Soon, we get to meet five of the season's 15 contestants. Christian (Kelsey Kurz), who is trying to come to grips with his lust for women and his love for God, finds himself attracted to alcoholic party girl Megan (Lauren Molina). Their hot tub duet, "Come On In," is the comic and musical highlight of the show.
Relationship doormat Samantha (Kate Morgan Chadwick) finds herself drawn to narcissistic Dominic (Alex Brightman, who pulls off a trifecta with characterizations, including stoner Chazz and Jenny's gay, tweeting roommate, Evan).
Meanwhile, reality and logic go out the door when Jeff starts spending most of his time in the Control Room developing a real relationship with the show's production assistant, Jenny (Jenni Barber). The actors deliver naturalistic performances that seem out of place in this mostly madcap milieu.
Director Michelle Tattenbaum's staging is limited by the intimate theater-in-the-square space, and so we hear more than see most of the fun elements. In fact, musical director Vadim Feichtner leads the five-piece band from under the stage.
The score is mostly generic rock and definitely loud -- so much so, that the cast has to use face mics to be heard above the din in a theater that is all of five rows deep. Indeed, anyone above age 25 should be advised to bring ear plugs -- and perhaps check their minds at the door.