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As we know, statutory rape is not hilarious. But first time director Dylan Key has assembled a talented cast, and O'Connor's script is also often quite funny.

Theater Review: Jailbait Explores the Morality and Legality of Love and Lust at Any Age

Rating

A

Location

Bath House Cultural Center 521 E. Lawther Dr. Dallas, TX 75218 Buy Tickets

Dates

Aug 22 thru Aug 31

It makes sense for a story about intimacy, or the pantomime and manufacture thereof, to take place in the shadows. The Dallas Actor’s Lab’s production of Jailbait, a four-character play Deirdre O’Connor wrote originally for the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York, is staged almost fishbowl style in the Bath House Cultural Center’s small theater. The multifunctional set (design is by Tim Rothwell)  becomes a teenage girl’s bedroom, a dark nightclub, the nightclub’s even dimmer bathroom, a man’s apartment, all lit by incidentals like Christmas lights around a mirror with the two sides of the audience facing each other. It is intimate, and the power of the play makes it unsettlingly so.

Jailbait, which meditates on morality versus legality as well as the interchange of love and lust at any age, is a good script for a theater company with ‘actor’ in its title. Dallas Actor’s Lab is a new company too; prior to this, it has produced only one other show two years ago almost to opening day. The previously mentioned four characters, two fifteen year old girls, Claire and Emmy, who meet two 30-something guys, Mark and Robert, at a club, need the right medium to keep things sweet rather than straight up gross. Every scene is a back-and-forth between two characters.

We begin with Claire (Katherine Bourne), a level-headed sophomore whose grief over her father’s death a year ago still lingers, and Emmy (Mikaela Krantz), a friend whose overconfident know-it-all theatrics almost always suggest something below the surface. Emmy snuck into a club with her sister the weekend before. She’d met an older guy, Mark, while pretending she was 21 and a college student. She told him she’d be back, and that she’d bring an equally hot, equally 21-year-old friend. Enter Claire, who is reluctant at first, but gets goaded into going after Emmy accuses her of not being any fun. Similarly, Mark (Jeff Swearingen) has convinced his more rigid friend Robert (Kyle Lemieux, DAL’s artistic director) to come out to the club with the idea that Robert could use some uncomplicated cheering up after getting dumped by his fiancee.

Teenage girls are terrifying. I know, I was one. I was terrified of myself, that I’d never learn to say the right things or look the right way. I was terrified of other girls, the ones who appeared older and prettier than I did—older and prettier than they were—and commanded mystery and attention in a swirling vortex of constant high school drama that involved whispers of college boys and booze. I never sneaked out of my house. I didn’t know how to put on eyeliner and my curly hair took me halfway through college to figure out how to tame. But I know Emmys who pushed for whatever reason to pretend at adulthood. And I know Claires, because if I’d been less scared of my mother, suffered a tragedy, or even just been moderately more attractive, I might have taken the devastating insult—”You’re no fun”—to heart.

As we know, statutory rape is not hilarious. But first time director Dylan Key (also the Artistic Associate at Undermain Theatre, and it’s a compliment to say that this show benefits from those sensibilities) has assembled a talented cast. O’Connor’s script is also often quite funny. These young actors toe the line, embracing off-color lines without allowing the humor to overwhelm to the seriousness of the tangle they find themselves in. Krantz infuses Emmy with dizzying hypersexual pretty girl mania and generously allows Bourne to shine. Her Claire is equal parts knowing and innocent, much like the play itself.

Photo courtesy of the Dallas Actors Lab