You know the old “Hey, kids, let’s put on a show” movies with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland? Well, Flat Earth Theatre’s production of TALES OF A FOURTH GRADE LESBO (playing through March 26th) seems like one of those scripts—and just to complicate matters—the characters in the play are also putting on a show. It’s a show within a show within a script that feels like this is its first outing (so to speak). It isn’t. It turns out playwright Gina Young is from L.A. with lots of credits to her name. So much for my theory.
TALES OF A FOURTH GRADE LESBO follows the whole class (gays and straights included) through the agony of fitting in and especially not fitting in. Any teen who feels “different” is gently lampooned in Young’s mostly entertaining script: From the shy boys that bullies hang on coat racks by the “gay loop” on their shirt backs to the girls with fem “crushes” who just aren’t interested in boys, to the amazement of the boys. “I don’t want to do you. I want to be you!” says a charismatic Kathleen C. Lewis.
Young’s sexploration scenes are hilarious, with ill-informed teens describing horrific, heterosexual misinformation. Teachers aren’t spared, either, with the clueless Miss Applebutter (a wonderful Julia Alvarez) pitching the wrong kid out of class. (I think I had her for English in high school.) Nasty girls at a sleepover exclude one girl and play a cruel “truth or dare” game (without the dare part) on another.
There are a few scenes which seem completely out of place (like the drama school “neutral mask” scene) which is why I assumed TALES was a developmental play. There’s even an instance where the kids discuss adding another scene to the play within the play and Alvarez’ character says there’s no room for anything else. Amen to that.
The very best part of the show happens when they (mostly the males sing lead) burst into song for no apparent reason. Their parodies of pop songs are spot on, with clever stand-in lyrics, for example in their Bohemian Rhapsody (Instead of a ‘devil,’ there’s “a detention hall with a table set aside for me.” Likewise, I Think We’re Alone Now and Hungry Eyes get a suggestive make-over. (The males in the cast are all deft vocalists.)
Director Mariagrazia LaFauci’s cast is pleasing, with fine work all around, especially from Malari Martin, Alvarez and Lewis. It’s the script that needs tightening. It’s just too long and too scattered for satire but I’m sure junior high students will eat it up.