it’s almost never a pleasure to watch a love story unfold on stage. sure, you’ve got maria and tony, marius and cosette, but despite love in all its forms often being one of the central plot lines of any given piece, it’s almost always the worst part of the script. except for when tony sings “maria,” which is second only to the snapping in my list of beloved west side story things. with that in mind, it was with a certain amount of trepidation that i accepted an invitation to the opening night of jenny lyn bader’s none of the above at the mainline theatre, directed by kaleidoscope theatre‘s trevor barrette and michelle lewis.
set in new york city, none of the above is a two hander that centers around jamie silver and clark mcdonald. jamie is like some evil hybrid of blair waldorf, jane margolis, and cher horowitz. admittedly, i’ve never watched gossip girl but from what i can tell, the park avenue princess character is embodied by blair waldorf, and jamie silver easily gives her a run for her money. a 17 year old in her final year of high school, jamie is a drug-dealing teenager from a wealthy family, whose inattentive parents’ only worldly desire is that she score a perfect SAT score.
spoiled, entitled and rude, for the most part, her try-hard energy comes off as nothing more than a cry for attention. that’s not to say that lily maclean, who plays jamie, wasn’t a pleasure to watch on stage – her version of jamie projected the exact amount of obnoxiousness that her character demanded. truth be told, i much preferred her snide character to her later reformed ways.
her genius SAT tutor, clark mcdonald (played by scott humphrey), knocks on jamie’s door when she is expecting her drug dealer. although both are equally quick-witted, clark is jamie’s opposite: enthusiastic, straight-laced, underprivileged, diligent. her success stands to benefit him just as much as her, though, as he’ll only get paid if she scores a 2400. so begins the clash of titans, so to speak, as clark attempts to tutor a resistant jamie into achieving that mutually beneficial perfect SAT score. jamie’s sneering cynicism is matched only by clark’s overly eager passion for academia. although their dislike for one another seemed to melt away rather quickly, watching and understanding the play’s conflicts – boy vs girl, rich vs poor, good vs bad, each character vs his or herself – was interesting. in the end, both jamie and clark find a bit of the other in themselves.
none of the above was soundtracked entirely by local talent, including our very own emily skahan, whose tracks “far” and “baby eyes” played at fittingly poignant moments. overall, the tone of the piece stayed much more lighthearted than i had initially expected, so much so that the more serious bits came as somewhat of a shock. it was hard, in certain respects, to feel bad for jamie – especially where her relationship with her parents was concerned – but by the end, you’re fond of her character’s transformation. it became easier to symapthize with her once her initial harshness disappeared. like i said, though, i preferred lily maclean’s “part one” jamie – she plays ‘destructive” very well. scott humphrey’s clark was definitely the show’s highlight. his character was unbelievably believable (although at times leaned a bit on the fatherish side for me) that i wonder if he’s really just “like that” in real life. the chemistry between clark and jamie, particularly during their early banter, arguments, and deal making, was spectacular.
when it comes down to it, none of the above is a romantic comedy. and although that’s not really my boat, i found myself secretly rooting for jamie and clark. i know i wasn’t alone in finding a stupid grin plastered across my face during the production’s final moments, and the climactic first kiss that put my “screw on-stage love stories!” theory to rest.