In a small town in Washington, the popular, not-so-smart Jeff Chalk has gone missing. Playwright Joshua Conkel keeps the action to a minimum, and focuses on the emotional journeys experienced. Despite the dramatic possibilities within some of the storylines, nothing comes to a head –- or feels all that dramatic.
Reviewed by Amanda Cooper
In the age of Gossip Girl, we are surrounded by microcosms of society being represented by high school. American teenage years can be a type of hyper-reality, with life’s dramas made into soap operas. Writing a play based around the lives of teens, then, is natural, and The Chalk Boy is just that.
In a small town in Washington, the popular, not-so-smart Jeff Chalk has gone missing. To narrate the days following his disappearance are Trisha and Lauren (Marguerite French and MaryCatherine Donnelly, respectively), two popular, perky girls from his school. Balancing out the cast are two not-so-popular girls who are best friends – Penny (Jennifer Harder), who had been semi-dating Jeff, and Breanna (Kate Huisentruit), who is infatuated with Penny.
At times the four briefly take on other personas, from parental figures to Jeff himself. The atmosphere is that of an earnest, mild mystery. Everyone's filled with a sugary energy, especially the popular girls, and even the two outcasts want to please – underneath their brooding, they care what we think.
Playwright Joshua Conkel keeps the action to a minimum, and focuses on the emotional journeys experienced while Jeff Chalk remains missing. However, despite the dramatic possibilities within some of the storylines, nothing comes to a head – or feels that dramatic. Though there are only four characters onstage, this two-act play doesn't actually explore the concepts and personas it puts forth. While Lauren and Trisha resort to religion, Breanna and Penny test their Wiccan potential. There's gossip and rumors, too - but all is dealt with flippantly.
The quartet of women don’t have much to work with, and so their performances lack consistency. This is underlined by the unsolved ending which, instead of feeling open-ended and true-to-reality, as Conkel clearly has attempted, feels unfinished and indecisive as it floats to its final scene.
Perhaps it's time to go back to 90210.
The Chalk Boy
At Under St. Marks
All tickets $18
www.horsetrade.info or 212 868 4444
Through Sept 20th
According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.