Cast Theatre playwright-in-residence Justin Tanner may have come up with the ultimate coming-of-age story in “Teen Girl.” Set one evening in late-’70s Salinas, story finds innocent high-schooler Susan (Laurel Green) confronted by a big slice of Real Life.
Show is to its era what “American Graffiti” (set in same part of the country) was to the early ’60s, and in its own way, just as universal.
Teen angst transcends time lines, and the same things that embarrassed 16 -year-olds decades ago still do today.
Tanner successfully taps into that angst.
Dialogue sparkles. Lines, intentionally rushed by actors and often overlapping, could have been taken from real-life kids, and sound far more authentic than the sitcom chatter common to this kind of show.
Mom’s in Vegas with her boyfriend, and Susan has the house to herself. Pal Tricia (Dana Schwartz) is the devil on her shoulder, trying to persuade the reluctant Susan to loosen up and party. But that’s nothing compared to the hell that occurs when old pal Mary (Thea Constantine) comes back to town from Los Angeles, with b.f. Pete (French Stewart) in tow.
Susan’s former babysitter, Mary has gone the punk-dope route, and Pete’s even worse. There’s some doubt as to whether Mary has really given up “the hard stuff ,” and it’s unlikely that Pete is incapable of anything involving drugs or sex. Both descend on Susan’s home, looking for a place to crash and Tricia’s lone joint of marijuana. But they’ll settle for rum-and-Coke and Pete’s seeds and stems.
Cast, most members of Tanner’s stock company, limn their characters perfectly; even the dangerous Mary and Pete are very funny while ringing true–you have seen these people at the Oki Dog. Jon Amirkhan and Judy Jean Berns also turn in fine perfs, as semi-square classmate Dennis and a neighbor who drops by to check in on Susan.
Everything turns out well enough after a tight 70 minutes; for all of his wit and perception, Tanner wraps his story in a way that should please parents as much as the kids, without copping out at the last minute.
“Teen Girl” has the jaunty, cheap flavor of a midnight movie, but there’s some seriously good (if not serious) acting here. Tech credits are adequate; ambition in this area is not especially called for.