None of the Above is Witty but Uneven

by Matthew Falduto

Anamosa – Uneven might be the best word to describe Starlighters’s most recent production of Jenny Lyn Bader’s None of the Above. There are some very funny moments, and some emotional moments, but all of those moments did not add up to a consistently funny or emotional show.

Most of the blame, it seems to me, is to be found in the script itself. The story seems straightforward but becomes more convoluted and unbelievable as it progresses. A smart college guy named Clark (Zach Lockhart) is hired by the father of a rich, high school student named Jamie (Breeyn Tighe) to help her achieve a perfect score on her SAT. Both Jamie and Clark have secrets: she is a drug dealer (at least for the first twenty minutes of the show; then that subplot pretty much disappears without any consequences) and Clark is a gambler. As you might expect, the two find themselves drawn to each other and we believe this will be a clever, funny romance of opposites. Instead of taking this tack, the script throws in gambling and alcohol addiction, suggestions of mafia connections, and a Faustian deal around which the entire play revolves. As the show progresses, the story becomes more and more complicated, and unfortunately, less and less interesting.

The one aspect the script does have going for it is a lot of clever humor. Both actors dive into this humor and deliver it well. They are at their best thrusting at one another with barbed comments. Both are strong actors who know how to command a stage. It would be wonderful to see them working another script – Taming of the Shrew, perhaps?

The set is wonderful. Jamie’s bedroom is a childlike pink playground, but the posters of Lennon, Lady Gaga, and the Black Eyed Peas suggest a teenager who is finding her place in the world. I also appreciated the musical interludes between each scene. Songs like “Poker Face” by Lady Gaga added to the overall tone of the show.

The director (Matt Kumley) used the set and the space well, moving the actors around the stage for mostly good effect. Kumley’s direction is most effective when the moments are confrontational between the characters. However, when the script calls for a more intimate moment, his direction sent the actors too close too soon, forcing them to move away and then back toward one another. This lead to uneven intimate moments that lacked intensity.

I do have to say the rest of the audience enjoyed the show far more than I did based on the applause between each scene. I did enjoy the humor and I did enjoy watching two strong actors practice their craft. So go for the wit of the script if not its plausibility. None of the Above runs through June 26. Ticket information is here.

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