by: Leslie Bruce
Have you seen Nice Girl yet?
Every good story begins and ends with first-rate writing, and kudos are in order for playwright Melissa Ross. The play is set in 1984 (a giveaway with Jane Pauley on the TV, references to Tab and Jane Fonda workouts) but is perfectly current to anyone feeling in the dumps about themselves. It shows the effects of regret on our souls, forcing us to choose how to proceed when something important has been left behind.
It all begins with Jo (short for Josephine), played by the wonderful Diane Davis, who still lives with her mother (the talented Kathryn Kates). She begins a friendship with her secretarial co-worker Sherry (the amazing Liv Rooth) who works her way into bringing Josephine back to life without even knowing it. Together they work through heartbreaks and singles clubs. They maneuver themselves around their deadbeat bosses. They even discuss Jo’s crush on Donny, the local butcher and her former high school classmate (portrayed awesomely by Nick Cordero).
The pacing of the show makes the two hours, 15 minutes go by quickly. In fact, the only moments that seem to slow down are those between Donny and Jo as they open up to each other about themselves and their view of the world. The intermission sneaks up on you as you learn more about Josephine and Donny and explore their budding crushes.
There is one scene between these two possible lovebirds that really captures the writer’s thoughts. Donny and Jo are discussing life and how they both never expected to be living in the same town they grew up in. The discussion turns to how both are working in career paths they never wanted for themselves and both seem entirely too fed up with it all. Jo gives her honest opinion about the world. An opinion that merely exclaims how dead inside she feels from the different choices she desired in the past and wanting to feel something besides numb. Donny agrees whole-heartedly that he feels likewise. Perhaps this is the message of the play: to inspire us to do something that makes us feel alive.
The acting is superb. The lights (Japhy Wideman) complement each scene and the sound (Ryan Rumery) brings you back to the eighties and affirms the setting easily. It moves freely from scene to scene with revolving walls and sliding banisters (set by David Meyer).
If you’re looking for a story that ends with a straight-up happy or tragic ending, Nice Girl will give you another choice going forward. The play is built to encapsulate the human flaws and vulnerabilities of real and everyday life. You get a perspective on how life changes unexpectedly and you are there for the ride. The ending leaves us with just as many questions as it does answers and the smallest grain of hope rests in the last moment. Perhaps this play will even inspire you to believe in the possibility of change.
Nice Girl is directed by Mimi O’Donnell. It is currently playing at the Labyrinth Theatre at 155 Bank Street Manhattan, New York now through June 14. Tickets are only $25. For more information on showtimes or to preorder your tickets now call at 212-513-1080 or visit labtheater.org.
Photos: Monique Carboni
*Leslie Bruce is a new student writer with a refreshing, youthful point of view