Anyone willing to suspend a certain amount of disbelief will reap giggles from Jenny Lyn Bader’s two-hander
None of the Above, now at Theatre Row, which is immeasurably enhanced by stars Halley Feiffer and Adam Green and Julie Kramer’s deft direction.
Jamie (Feiffer) is what used to be known as a poor little rich girl. The contemporary twist is that she happens to be one who occasionally deals drugs from a shocking-pink Fifth Avenue bedroom that Elle Woods might have designed (but Lauren Helpern actually did). She’s applying to college after flubbing her PSATs — and to try to turn things around, her absent dad has retained Clark (Green), a tutor whose previous tutees have earned perfect 2400 SAT scores across the board.
Clark’s challenge, which he fearlessly takes on, is to get the obviously bright but academically disinterested Jamie to pull down a 2400 on her SATs as well. It turns out that Clark even has a contract with Jamie’s pater whereby the perfect score will net him something like half a million bucks. Anything short of that tall order will bring him zilch — and Clark will have to skip town as a result of some bad financial decisions he’s made in the past.
The protagonists engage one another over a few month’s time during which Jamie eases the Paris Hilton-Lindsay Lohan-like peevish behavior in which she’s been indulging and begins to see the advantages of acing the tests needed to get her into the college of her (or her parents’) choice; while Clark begins to see more than a tutor-pupil relationship developing and tries to be professional about it.
Bader has deliberately chosen to go the glib boulevard-comedy route rather than pry more deeply into these two characters, who might not have come off quite so scot-free in different hands. After all, an adolescent of great entitlement selling drugs to peers wouldn’t seem so benign on, say, Law & Order — especially one whose mother and father keep themselves at such an isolating remove. When Jamie tries to reach the folks via the house intercom, she can’t be sure of connecting; when she cell-phones them, she’s sloughed off by intermediaries.
Likewise, any protagonist with the sort of secrets that Clark eventually reveals would also encounter more obstacles in a less unrealistically light-hearted narrative. But since the piece is billed as a “comedy,” Bader gets away with scanting on the serious.
She’s ably abetted by Feiffer and Green, who mastered much more frantic roles in Josh Tobiessen’s Election Day earlier this season. Here, they play off each other with the kind of comic and sexual chemistry common to long-standing teams. Green, with his deep-set eyes and concentrated intensity, is a pogo-stick of repressed energy. Feiffer, straight blond hair blowing, emanates all the precocious sophistication of a girl used to taking for granted all the privileges typical of a Brearley or Chapin girl. (The fictional school she attends is called Billington.) Her cute moves are also amusing to see for readers of her dad Jules Feiffer’s cartoon strips about pretentious modern dancers.
There are plays and productions you enjoy throughout yet wish there were more to them. None of the Above could be the poster child for such enterprises.