In Erica Lipez’s The Tutors—now playing at Second Stage Uptown, directed by Thomas Kail—a trio of earnest young pedagogues gets schooled in some tough (and somewhat trite) life lessons. Former college buddies and now roommates and business partners, they spend afternoons helping New York’s coddled youth game the educational system. Off-hours, they tinker with a Facebook-like website (metaphor alert!)—a start-up that won’t start—while sabotaging their real-world relationships. Stalwart Toby lusts after Joe, but Joe’s a feckless rogue, all charm and little substance; meanwhile, batty Heidi, a shut-in, hallucinates a delusional romance with a fantasy version of an Asian client. (The play’s requisite moneyed brat, Milo—a very enjoyable character—turns out to just be lonely, too, in need of T.L.C.) Be advised: Apparently, true social bonds require more effort and pain than mouse-clicks and friend requests.
The Tutors seesaws between bouncy comedy and drawn-out melodrama like a teenager on a Ritalin jag. Lipez’s quippy dialogue is offhandedly witty in a Judd Apatow kind of way, but she can’t resist resolving every emotional complication with tedious bickering and damp confessions. The inequities of American higher education are atmosphere, not context. Like a bad college application essay, The Tutors overshares and could do with some professional editing.