When an actor forgets her lines once, it’s a forgivable slip. When she gets distracted by an unexpected fire alarm — like the one that interrupted the perf reviewed of Marissa Kamin’s “The Fabulous Life of a Size Zero” — no one could reasonably complain. But when she drops the ball half a dozen times, it’s time to face it: She’s a metaphor for the jumbled, haphazard play she can barely remember.
Thesp in question is Kate Reinders, playing an anonymous superstar who haunts the fantasies of a nameless high school senior (Gillian Jacobs). The imaginary diva shows up to goad the girl’s insecurities, hosting gameshows about crash diets and dangling potential acceptance letters from Ivy League colleges. Meanwhile, the poor kid’s friends, father and guidance counselor help push her into binge drinking, an eating disorder and an emotionally abusive relationship. All within 90 minutes.
Because she doesn’t name her protagonist, it’s clear Kamin wants her to represent a generation of young women held to impossible standards of physical and academic perfection. But Kamin’s script spends so much time clicking off the names of every conceivable adolescent crisis, it reduces them all to generalities.
Unlike in the film “Thirteen,” which hauntingly depicts girls destroying themselves, consequences erupt in this play without any organic connection to the characters’ actions. The protagonist may develop bulimia and lose her virginity, but it’s only because she’s a catchall symbol.
The show’s style is as frenetic as its content. One minute, we’re in a comedy about celebrity culture, where the girl and her best friend Heather (Anna Chlumsky, playing multiple roles) obsess over stars. Then we’re jerked to an earnest melodrama about the girl’s dad (Brian J. Smith) vainly trying to ease her troubles.
These shifts overwhelm director Ben Rimalower. His actors seem lost, moving awkwardly through spaces that are never clearly defined. And the designers coat everything with the same general wash. Ben Stanton’s lights and the music overseen by DJ Brenda Black always recall a throbbing gay nightclub, no matter what’s going on.
This makes it hard to comprehend the segments when Chlumsky steps forward and delivers speeches adapted by Kamin from the actual blogs of teenagers. We see a projection of a random girl’s face and what look to be excerpts from her online profile. Then Chlumsky starts talking about boys or drugs or dieting. But who is she? And who’s that girl up there? And why is this happening in a disco?
And who said the gossip Web site Jossip.com should get its own commercials? Occasional projections of celebrities are meant to be jokes, but since they’re festooned with the Jossip logo, they function as ads. (No surprise: Jossip is listed as a co-presenter.)
The product placement joins the real-world blogs, the bulimia and the dream sequences to make “The Fabulous Life of a Size Zero” a head-spinning assault. When so many messages get shouted, they all just turn into noise.