Tween Work

A young woman gets trapped in the past

If the past is a foreign country, then Lauren (Sasha Eden) is having serious trouble with her exit visa. Ostensibly a high-functioning New York twentysomething, psychologically she remains trapped in her tween years—a prisoner of grandiloquent statements, undefinable yearnings, and motiveless action. At the age of 14, Lauren rejected her best friend, Eliza (Laura Heisler), and then watched Eliza succumb to anorexia. In Anna Ziegler's BFF, the youthful betrayal bars Lauren from adult relationships and satisfactions.

The producers, Women's Expressive Theater, or WET, have made it their goal to produce plays by female playwrights and promote female artists, a laudable, even necessary, mission. But female psychology receives somewhat shallow treatment in Ziegler's play. The schematic script hopscotches between junior-high era Lauren and Eliza and the present-day, as Lauren attempts a romance with a diffident banker (Jeremy Webb). Adolescent pain has an especial acuteness, but Ziegler's pat structure undercuts this.

On a hectic set, the actors turn in fine performances, but the rough edges are glossed, the loose ends almost invariably tied. Heisler, ever a brave performer, gives a wrenching turn, but Ziegler and director Josh Hecht never allow her anguish to linger overlong, cutting away to the next scene before it becomes too threatening. Despite this timidity, Ziegler shows talent for creating character and dialogue. If she trusts herself to a looser structure, and avoids cuteness and self-conscious quirk, then she, unlike Lauren, should have a far less painful time maturing.

 
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