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Melancholy, sharp, introspective Jailbait at Dallas Actor's Lab

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Jailbait

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Emmy and Claire are teenage friends spending the night together in Claire’s home. When Jailbait opens they are trading swigs from a forgotten bottle of fridge wine. Emmy has made arrangements for them to crash a nightclub, by passing for older women. What she has failed to mention is that she’s already made a tenuous connection with an older guy named Mark, and he is bringing his friend Bobby. Claire’s “date” for the evening. Once Claire drags this omission out of Emmy, she’s not altogether sure she’s up for this adventure. Emmy, who lost her virginity over a year ago, assures Claire this whole endeavor will be harmless and pleasurable, in a manner that reflects her worldly, disaffected confidence. She helps Claire adjust her makeup and attire, and cook up a convincing backstory.

Bobby is recovering from a break-up with Valerie, clearly a woman he was smitten with. Only nowadays, apparently, the expression is “stupid.” As in : so completely submerged under the spell of love, one is blind to any flaws or hazards. “Stupid” as in, so entranced you make stupid choices. Even tonight, when he and Mark will be meeting the girls (neither one knows they are minors) he carries his cell phone, hoping Valerie will call to reconcile after dumping him. Mark, far more experienced and cynical, just wants Bobby to move on and be happy, rather than continuing to cling to a dead relationship. Mark may have some irritating alpha dog tendencies, but perhaps Mark could benefit from a bit of his bravado.

The wisdom and depth of Jailbait (a somewhat misleading title) comes from playwright Deidre O’Connor’s understanding of what pop culture tells us sex and the world is supposed to be, and what it is. Commercials, novels, music videos, television shows depict sexuality as a kind of voluptuous, forbidden fruit : swoony, intense, sybaritic fun.
O’Connor understands that no matter how much idiots try to convince us that NSA coupling can be uncomplicated recreation, no matter how it comes out in the wash, there is always a price. She realizes the humanity we so often find cumbersome, is what finally redeems pathetic, ridiculous behavior. O’Connor sets up the premise of two very young ladies and two middle aged guys, yearning for something more, yet thwarted by presumptions and expectations that only make life more painful.

O’Connor leads us down certain paths, only to confound and surprise us, again and again. Without revealing too much, we find the cavalier and cosmopolitan Emmy on the Ladies Room floor, looking rather frail and isolated. We see the sophisticated Mark, overwhelmed when faced with a genuinely grown-up problem. A deeply affecting and endearing quality of Jailbait is O’Connor’s magnanimous attitude towards her characters. They may make unfortunate choices, and she does expose their flaws, but she resists the impulse we might find in Rabe or Mamet, to diminish or make them contemptible. She doesn’t judge or dismiss, but rather, she tries to help them navigate dangerous waters from a dubious, tiny raft.

Dallas Actor’s Lab presents : Jailbait, starring Katherine Bourne (Claire) Mikaela Krantz (Emmy) Kyle Lemieux (Robert) and (Mark) Jeff Swearingen. August 22-31, 2013. Bath House Cultural Center, 521 East Lawther Drive, Dallas, Texas 75218. 214-604-7113. dallasactorslab.org

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