Reviewed by Ilana Novick
Note to Self examines the trials of somethings dating their way towards happiness and stability. A seemingly solid, earnest high school guidance counselor named Mark (Gerry Ferris ) collides, through the wonder of online dating, with Michelle (Christina Romanello), a bipolar whirlwind of a woman with a drugstore in her purse and a chip on her shoulder.
Mark’s opening monologue is a promising beginning, spoken as if read straight from an online profile. It strikes a chord with a anyone who has struggled to market themselves within the confines of the likes/dislikes/turn-ons/turnoffs/hopes/dreams/small screens and 200 character limits of many of the dating sites. Mark states (more bluntly than most of these virtual personal ads) that he doesn’t want a good friend, isn’t comfortable with a friend with benefits, and wants all or nothing when it comes to dating. Manifesto stated, he strolls into a coffee shop and comes face to face with Michelle.
Michelle is a thirtyish sometime painter/writer, but mostly personal shopper, whose use of sarcasm as a come-on, and constant evasion of questions about her past, stands in stark contrast to Mark's desire for a straightforward woman. She announces a hatred for her family, but refuses to say why, won't disclose her last name, and claims that she doesn't need to be using online dating when she's so attractive she can have "all the bachelors-and the bachelorettes" as she puts it. Michelle’s constant figeting, playing with and twisting the sweater around her shoulders, sorting through her bag, picking up and putting down the latte cup without drinking it, head moving in five different directions does more to define her as a conflicted, neurotic, sexy but unstable woman far more than what is at times too-glib dialogue. She doesn’t have to announce how complicated yet attractive she is, or how she believes that Mark should be enthralled by her wit as well as her body.
The quality of Romanello's acting however, is not enough to distract the audience from the lack of action in the plot. Sure, there's screaming; revelations of physical abuse and drug abuse; a shadowy figure in Michelle’s past named Max, responsible for most of that abuse; and Mark’s last girlfriend Emily, who was as devoted to Mark’s ailing mother as Mark wasn’t to Emily’s own emotional needs. And all that as Michelle moves in with Mark and begins to try to change herself. But it still seems as if not enough is at stake, other than the outcome of a play-length argument: can opposites attract? It’s like being on a crowded plane or train, squished next to a couple who have decided to use this cramped space as the staging ground for the airing of their romantic grievances. The result is meaningful, even life-defining for the people involved but grating and uncomfortable for those trapped next to them.