Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
May 25, 2012
Most of us have a love-hate relationship with reality TV. We openly disparage it, but secretly can’t get enough of it. We probably all agree that it’s tacky to the max, yet it’s strangely addictive. We’re willing to suspend disbelief and rational thinking, to accept this as some form of reality, though exactly what part is really real is never quite clear. Honestly, I’m not a fan. And I didn’t have particularly high hopes for a musical that centers on a reality TV dating show.
But “Nobody Loves You” is full of surprises and unadulterated fun. And a tiny touch of insight, of the television type. We see that “Fame feels a lot like love.” But “a million strangers’ stares don’t mean as much as one person who cares.”
These are the lessons learned by the central character, Jeff, a doctoral student who happens to be writing a philosophy dissertation on the nature of reality. When his girlfriend dumps him and says she’s going out to audition for her favorite TV show, “Nobody Loves You,” he runs after her, onto the show, hoping to win her back. It turns out that she doesn’t get chosen, but Jeff does. He stays on, viewing it as a fertile research opportunity.
He disdains the whole concept, calling it “a toxic lie.” He goes negatively through the increasingly absurd, forced social activities, from the hot tub to the water-slide to the jello room. Jeff takes pedantically critical notes on the whole experience. The more he repudiates this false perception of reality, the more the audience eats it up. The slumping ratings soar.
Inevitably, Jeff gets sucked into the celebrity vortex, even as he finds what appears to be true love in similarly cynical Jenny, a production assistant on the show. Do they play their relationship out onscreen, or can they keep it real?
These are the profound metaphysical concerns of this charmingly spoofy Old Globe world premiere. The creators are hip and smart. Former Globe playwright-in-residence Itamar Moses has captured the glibness, faux-glam and endless clichés of this TV phenom. The writer’s former Yale classmates, composer/co-lyricist Gaby Alter and director Michelle Tattenbaum , contribute a melodic pop-rock score and brisk, inventive staging, backed by an excellent, unseen band.
Most of the talented, eight-member cast play multiple roles, to rollicking effect. Of course, the game show host is unspeakably smarmy, and the contestants are stereotypes: the needy professional woman; the heavy-drinking, oversexed party girl; the self-styled lothario; even an upright, uptight Christian. If they’re not hooked up with someone, they’re voted off the show, told that ‘Nobody Loves Them .’ It’s harsh, but it has a coterie of devotees, most hilariously, a prancy guy in a PJ onesie .
The new musical isn’t deep, but it is entertaining. And, like the silly shows it satirizes, inexplicably irresistible.
“Nobody Loves You” continues through June 17 at the Old Globe.
©2012 PAT LAUNER