Jailbait Evokes a More Human Neil LaBute

Teetering on gold heels in a skin-tight black dress in a generic meat-market nightclub, rail-thin Claire (Natalia Payne) looks every inch the overeager fake-ID teen—the Jailbait of Deirdre O'Connor's misleadlingly sensational title. But the fetching blend of alert terror and blooming excitement Payne conveys with her eyes, as the 15-year-old Claire bluffs through a flirtation with a decent, thirtyish bachelor, Robert (Kelly AuCoin), subtly convinces us that he'd be too attracted to notice the warning signs. This dangerous chemistry also gives their scenes together nearly white-knuckle suspense.

Teen scene: Wrenn Schmidt and Natalia Payne in Jailbait
Carol Rosegg
Teen scene: Wrenn Schmidt and Natalia Payne in Jailbait

Details

By Deirdre O'Connor
The Cherry Pit
155 Bank Street, 212-868-4444

The rest of O'Connor's prickly, sensitively observed play isn't quite as riveting, though it may not be entirely her fault. In tracing the nightlife adventure of Claire and her precocious teen peer Emmy (Wrenn Schmidt), director Suzanne Agins gets fine work from her actors, but skimps on atmosphere. While it might be tedious to have actors shout over a pumping sound system during the club scenes, would a little ambience hurt? At its best, Jailbait evokes a more humane Neil LaBute—Robert's friend Mark (Peter O'Connor) is your standard-issue wisecracking misogynist—but what this production might learn from American theater's reigning misanthrope is that an emotional tightrope only transports us if it's kept taut.

 
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