All primates, including the four California teenagers in Blair Singer’s “Notice Me,” love to gaze at themselves in the mirror. But do the characters in this slight, if edgy, comedy see the same monkeys we see? Or do they (and youthful auds who might identify with them) find something tragic in their desperate need for attention? Just don’t expect Singer to resolve that problem. Scribe takes his satiric gift too lightly, scoring easy comic points by using these clueless kids for target practice, while neglecting to give them the brains to realize that someone’s taking pot shots at them.
Helmer Sofia Alvarez seems to have gone out of her way to keep the comedy as light and breezy — and insubstantial — as possible, until the straight-to-hell twist that comes at the end. The musical soundscape by Daniel Roland Tierney adds some emotional texture, but the high-noon lighting and flimsy setpieces overstate the blandness of Tarzana, the Southern California suburb where four teenagers are doomed to live until they die of boredom.
No character is permitted more than 1.5 personality traits, and so long as that suits you, Singer (“Matthew Modine Saves the Alpacas”) obliges with some really funny material to illustrate their obsessive self-interests. The charged teenage idiom — in which “fuck” beats out, but doesn’t completely replace, “like” or “totally” in all-purpose word usage — is crisp and surprisingly lucid for a foreign tongue.
There’s a nice, easy rhythm to a line like, “I mean, a person could fucking die out here in the suburbs and no one would ever find out for like days!” and Singer has clearly mastered the basic notes of what is essentially the song of youth’s eternal yearning for what it doesn’t yet have.
Stacy (Susan Pratt), the pretty narcissist who knows her looks are all she’s got to negotiate with, takes most of Singer’s satiric slings and arrows for her desperation to get on MTV’s “The Real World.”
Craig (Jake Green), Stacy’s boyfriend and the school’s star jock, is so desperately in love with this airhead that he scores a bunch of steroids to beef up enough to get into the Ivy League college of her choice.
Deanna (Annabel LaLonde), the goody-good plain Jane that every high school Heather picks for her best friend, while devoted to Stacy, is desperately in love with Stacy’s brother, Harry.
Harry (Jason Shelton), who deals drugs and has a secret that would shock his peers, is the only person in this group with the hint of a more complex character. He’s ripe for satire, too, with his carefully cultivated bad-boy persona, and Stacy has a point when she calls him Ratboy. But Harry is more self-aware and articulate than anyone else onstage and Shelton positively feasts on that spark of intelligence.
Knowing, no doubt, that they are playing one-dimensional caricatures, the other thesps deliver the comedy with spirit and don’t even pretend to find something more substantial. Singer is good enough to rescue them all by providing an actual plot that focuses and finally resolves their individual yearnings.
That’s a start, anyway, for a playwright you want to keep an eye on — but not trust too far, too soon.