The Choral Rehearsal Hall in the basement of the Cesar Chavez Student Center is about as far off-Broadway as you can get. Even on the Cal campus, it's hard to find. (Go around the back of the building, by the creek, to circumvent the snarky reception desk off lower Sproul Plaza.) Still, that's where NY-based director Ben Rimalower chose to stage a workshop production of Marissa Kamin's The Fabulous Life of ... A Size Zero to get the kinks out before its official world premiere Off-Broadway this summer.
It's a bare-bones, ramshackle creation with an undergrad cast under the aegis of student-produced theater company BareStage Productions, which Rimalower founded twelve years ago. Kamin was also a founding member. The first performance opened its doors forty minutes late, but that turned out to be no big deal since the play runs less than an hour.
Size Zero is about body image, specifically the destructive influence of celebrity culture on impressionable young girls, and at this point that's all it's about. There's very little room for misinterpretation. As the Mephistophelean Superstar, El Beh pouts seductively between monologues about how she's in the business of preying on girls' self-esteem. As Girl, freshman Jaclyn Friedenthal is believably hapless in her descent from amorphous little girl to bulimic, drug-addled, superficial skank, and her girl-talk with senior Claire Ferensowicz as her best friend couldn't be more like the blather of two teenagers. Junior Paul Johnson gives smarmy charm to Girl's jerk of a boyfriend and other suitors, and sophomore Zi Alikhan is a campy delight as a series of hysterical inner voices, filling scene changes with a babbling stream of celebrity gossip.
Fueled entirely by sass, the script bounces around from parodies of game shows, romance novels, and reality programs to monologues about diets and cocktails both alcoholic and narcotic, and there's some amusing metacommentary toward the end about how we don't really care about characters we've never seen. At its core, however, its didactic message and skeletal plot never get much beyond the after-school-special melodrama. The play is animated and often amusing, and hell, it only costs five to eight bucks. But it's hard to imagine it going anywhere just yet.
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