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TEEN GIRL

By F. Kathleen Foley
May 23, 2008

Audrey Siegel, Zoe Perry, Cody Chappel Guilford Adams, Johanna McKay and Chloe Taylor star in the play written by Justin Tanner and directed by Matt Roth.

Playwright Justin Tanner takes an uncharacteristic segue into sweetness in his 1992 coming-of-age play, "Teen Girl," now in revival at the Zephyr. "Girl" is not the acid-etched indictment of soulless suburban life so typical of Tanner but a scrawled valentine to adolescent romance and the 1970s. Despite its lighter impressions, the result remains indelible, a riotous glimpse of slack-jawed youth as caustic as it is comedic.

Set in 1979, the action takes place in the backyard of a house in Salinas, Calif. For Susan (Zoe Perry), who is about to graduate, her high school years have been a hell of peer pressure and teen angst, exacerbated by the constant needling and criticism from Tricia (Audrey Siegel), Susan's Farrah-haired friend, who considers herself the exponent of all that is cool.

With her mom out of town for the weekend, Susan has been left under the watchful eye of Mrs. Burns (Johanna McKay), the wine-guzzling busybody next door. But when Susan's former baby sitter Mary (Chloe Taylor), now a heroin-fueled punker, visits with her thrasher boyfriend Pete (Guilford Adams), Susan's planned weekend of quiet study descends into chaos.

Gary Guidinger's evocatively tasteless backyard set is perfect for the ensuing escapades. As with many Tanner works, the plot is minimal and character-driven, and director Matt Roth tackles the play's comedic rhythms without a whisper of artifice. Among the terrific cast, Perry is a standout, as is Cody Chappel as Dennis, Susan's classmate and admirer, a twinkling-eyed innocent out to score.

In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. The converse does not hold true for Susan, a bright young woman trapped in the valley of the brainless. Her efforts to make sense of her idiotic surroundings is an existential struggle that will frequently leave you howling. We sense that Susan will have a life beyond Salinas, but in the interim, we feel -- and relish -- her pain.


©2007 Guilford Adams. All rights reserved.