The high school described in Sonya Sobieski’s teenage tutorial Commedia Dell Smartass doesn’t seem to offer students much in the way of reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic. Required courses skew more toward “Fundamentals of Betrayal,” “Introduction to Mind Games,” and “Teenage Alienation 101.” In this New Georges production, a quartet of students—a scheming jock, an icy Girl Scout, an amiable nerd, and a white-faced clown—explores such extracurricular activities as first love and the yearbook club.
Sobieski’s writing balances poetic cadence with pubescent mumbles. She can also toss off amusing, character-based lines, as when the athlete threatens the clown, “I could have you beaten up en masse,” adding cockily, “Yes, I know some French.” In this James Spader–esque role, Jesse Hooker is an arrogant joy, and Jessi Campbell as the Girl Scout makes a tasty thin mint. Though the script aims for an oddball, alternate-universe feel, and director Jean Randich does supply some imaginative fillips—mimed sequences, stark lighting, deconstructed set—the play bears an unshakable resemblance to teen flick fare. Such simple plots work well enough in the cinema, but translated to an Off-Off-Broadway stage, She’s All That isn’t all that.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 6, 2005