Silhouette does justice to Deirdre O'Connor's Jailbait

Claire and Emmy are fifteen, which means they're right on the cusp: worldly and womanly in some respects — and certainly in their own minds — and confused children in others. They feel themselves wildly sophisticated as they chug down wine stolen from a parent's liquor cabinet in Deirdre O'Connor's Jailbait and make plans to get into an adult nightclub, posing for each other in skintight black dresses and high heels. Claire is dealing with the recent death of her father and the possibility that her mother might be dating again. Emmy is the dominant member of the duo, the one who hatches the plans and teases her friend — sometimes spitefully — into going along with them. She coaches Claire on how to fake being a college student and how to pick up men. The men the two girls meet when they eventually get into the club are in their thirties: cynical Mark and needy Robert, the friend who's just recovering from a breakup and has been dragged out for a night of drinking and easy sex.

This is obviously a loaded situation, and given the play's title and Mark's casual dropping of the word "roofies" at one point, you expect a pretty dark outcome — rape, perhaps, or violence. At the very least, heartbreak. But Jailbait, presented in a regional premiere by Silhouette Theatre Company, is actually a rather sweet-natured piece about two girls on the tricky path to maturity and two older men, somewhat lost and searching for grounding and ballast. There's talk in the program about the influence of social media and the way young people these days are exposed to sexy ads and videos, but social media doesn't really drive the plot of the play; this has always been a highly sexualized culture, and teenage hormones were pulsating long before the Internet. What we understand now that we perhaps didn't a couple of decades ago is how destructive sex between an adult and a teenager can be — and we've tightened the penalties accordingly.

Playwright O'Connor is generous in her sympathies and allows all her characters their humanity, even wolfish Mark. But the sharpest and most intuitive dialogue occurs in the scenes between Claire and Emmy, teenage-girls-in-the bedroom scenes that could easily slide into television-drama cliché but never do. There's also a hilarious scene in the club as Claire struggles to play the sophisticate for Robert, who must be aware of the gaping holes in her story but is too intrigued by her to want to explore them. There are some moments that are less convincing. Surely once Robert discovers he's with a teenager, he'd be at least a little concerned about the possibility of legal repercussions — something he never mentions — and it's also an ugly thing to see a grown man yelling as he does at a distraught youngster. The older man whom poor fatherless Claire was so understandably drawn to turns out to be a pretty messed-up guy.

Michelle Hurtubise and Cortney Patston in Jailbait.
Brian Miller
Michelle Hurtubise and Cortney Patston in Jailbait.

Location Info

Map

John Hand Theater

7653 E. 1st Place
Denver, CO 80230

Category: Theaters

Region: East Denver

Details

Presented by Silhouette Theatre Company through August 5, John Hand Theater, 7653 East First Place in Lowry, 303-999-9143, www.silhouettetheatrecompany.org.

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Cortney Patston is a lively delight as Emma, showing all the requisite bitchiness and would-be toughness, and creating a very convincing drunken meltdown in the john. Michelle Y. Hurtubise makes for a sweetly vulnerable Claire, perhaps a little too cute at first, but deeply touching in the big showdown with Robert. Ryan Wuestewald and Brian J. Brooks show emotional honesty as Robert and Mark, respectively. But Silhouette is a relatively new company, one of two sharing space at the comfortable, funky John Hand Theater, and it hasn't quite found its stride or reached the level of professionalism it aspires to. Founders Paul and Johanna Jaquith do well with a small budget and bare-bones tech, but despite the periodic strengths of the cast, the acting is uneven overall, and the direction needs more depth and precision.

Still, Silhouette deserves high praise for the interesting repertoire it's bringing to the stage — generally plays by lesser known writers that explore the complexities of human relationships — and the guts and honesty with which actors and directors approach that repertoire.

 
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