"Once upon a time, but like, not that long ago really..."
A cheesy fairy tale of stereotypical high school relationships on its surface, though it doesn't take long to break the formula.
Flux Theatre Ensemble hosted their preview-performances for Jane The Plain (written by August Schulenburg, directed by Kelly O'Donnell) this weekend. The production from its very first line – see above – is a cheesy fairy tale of stereotypical high school relationships on its surface, though it doesn't take long to break the formula with fun character choices and the courage to go surreal.
The character-names alone could introduce you to the cast. Betty the Pretty and Lexi the Sexy (Becky Byers and Sol Crespo) cheer for their Plainview High School Jaguars while Scotty the Hotty and Leeson the Decent (Chinaza Uche and Chester Poon) are the team's quarterbacks. Meanwhile, Leonard the Awkward and the eponymous Jane the Plain (Isaiah Tanenbaum and Alisha Spielmann) play Magic: The Gathering and study for class. Everything feels quite normal and cleanly labeled at the beginning, especially since the cast nails their simple character traits.
However, all it takes is a chemistry project to give the play its fire. At the drop of a word –"beautiful" – we suddenly go to dirty phone messages, broken bones, sexual rediscovery, explosions, and the mysterious Glowing Girl and Mirror Man. The result is a team of caricatures who later grow through their absurd circumstances and realize what life is about.
While the story has compelling twists and turns which usually make sense (though not without the occasional stretch), the narrative deserves specific attention for breaking the fourth wall. By being self-aware of its theatrical format, Jane The Plain opens itself up to new ways to tell a teenage fairy tale. One example uses the idea of DJ-like record-scratching to repeat important lines during simultaneous conversations.
The direction created fun opportunities for the cast to support scenes. Fingertips and a drum provide a rainy atmosphere to great effect in one scene. You can also see where the show's other design aspects were in sync with the big picture, such as when swift choreography helps move bleachers between scenes. Even the set's high school wall being torn away at the edges is a clue that foreshadows the standard high school-formula breaking.
All in all, the show earns its confetti. The cast created some great moments, both individually and as a team. It's worth your time if you love the comedy that comes with high school politics... and if you don't, you may still enjoy how it shakes off the norms of narrative to share its story.