‘We’re nonreflective and solutions-oriented,” says Angela (Lisa Joyce), one of the overeducated, underemployed heroines in Gina Gionfriddo’s play U.S. Drag. Unwilling to work for minimum wage (“It’s hard to work for a little when you want a lot!”), the unsentimental Angela and her stylishly mercenary roommate Allison (Tanya Fischer) realize that the solution to their financial troubles and social obscurity lies in getting the reward for capturing a New York serial killer named Ed.
Gionfriddo’s sharp and satisfying satire, produced by the StageFarm, is rooted largely in the contrast between the play’s practical heroines and the self-important, ineffectual young men who surround and attempt to influence them: the navel-gazing novelist, the misguided do-gooder, the sentimental trust-fund baby. These men are undeniably caricatures, but the convincing performances of Logan Marshall-Green and Lucas Papaelias as the budding writer and the community organizer, respectively, suggest that this flatness isn’t a failure of the script or Trip Cullman’s directing, but rather a reflection of these characters’ overaggressive attempts to define themselves.
Angela and Allison refuse to be drawn out by the young men, but when they’re alone together, they share moments of self-reflection; the girls ask themselves what it means “to matter.” Angela’s desire for fame seems trite, but Joyce infuses the role with a twist of lifelike self-consciousness. (Allison remains two-dimensional.) These tentative gestures toward a complicated consciousness move the play beyond simple satire, but they also set up expectations that aren’t totally satisfied by U.S Drag‘s end. The quest for Ed—and for fame and fortune—is favorably resolved, but Gionfriddo’s script, like her heroines, seems to retreat from asking the lingering existential questions.