What do you imagine Pamela H. Leahigh wrote before she had her first romantic kiss? A sonnet? A letter of unimaginable and unrequited love, directed at the hot boy at school but never sent? A diary entry describing confusion over the first tendrils of amorous longing?
Well, you’re wrong. She wrote an episode for “21 Jump Street“, complete with the moralistic, condescending little commercials which used to leaven the show. The cast (Jenlene Nowak, Anissa Parkeh, Paolo Santayana, Colleen Sproull and Tom Witherspoon) acts it out for you.
Leahigh is right to point out that our pre-teen years, which we remember in a bath of nostalgia, were for most of us miserable periods of intense insecurity, enforced conformity, and social malfeasance supplemented by beat-downs from school bullies and (in Catholic schools) the holy nuns. Many of us, like Leahigh, retreated to the world of TV, and those with artistic leanings often wrote scripts. Indeed, the Internet is littered with these scripts.
The problem is that “21 Jump Street” was a horrible show, and watching a 12-year-old’s version of it is not high art. The actors faithfully reproduce the show’s signature wooden style, so that what we see is (a) a terrible show, (b) written by a twelve-year-old, (c) performed by actors who are deliberately being bad. (Notwithstanding all that, Parekh is absolutely swell singing a cappella a song about a little girl who refused to brush her teeth. I will never look at a Yukmouth in the same way again.)
Perhaps recognizing the dilemma her first show creates, Leahigh also treats us to an episode which she wrote as a teenage, presumably post-first kiss, for “Dougie Howser, MD” . “Dougie”, as you recall, is the story of a young genius who has his medical degree but still possesses the judgment and emotional maturity of a 9-year-old. Here the writing is better – Leahigh, after all, now has a few years of practice – and the acting is pitched at a considerably higher level. Witherspoon is a credible Dougie, full of raucous good cheer, and the rest of the cast is instantly recognizable as standard episodic sit-com characters.
Still, this is a network sitcom, much like dozens (or, who knows, hundreds) of others awaiting me at home on my TV, for free. I commend Leahigh for mastering this particular form of torture at such an early age. It speaks well for the likelihood of her eventual commercial success. But for those of you who have spent your lifetime assiduously avoiding this sort of dreck – watch out, Dougie! It’s a trap!
I get the sense that this show is designed to be fairly interactive. Unfortunately, because of the time slot (10 p.m. Tuesday) and perhaps the scouring rain which preceded it, attendance at the show I watched had not reached the critical mass needed for interaction.
The Lazy B Theatre Troup, composed of 2008 graduates of the excellent Theatre Lab Honors Conservatory program, has, as an experiment, successfully reproduced two TV shows – one mediocre, and one horrible. But, as Dougie himself might have said (or had said to him), while the experiment was successful, the patient died.
Things I Wrote Before My First Kiss
By Pamela H. Leahigh
Directed by Pamela H. Leahigh
Produced by The Lazy B Theatre Troup
Reviewed by Tim Treanor
Running time: 90 minutes
Read all the reviews and check out the full Capital Fringe schedule here.
Did you see the show? What did you think?