The Diary of a Teenage Girl

A transgressive graphic novel springs into three dimensions.

  • BARELY LEGAL Heller's teen records her memories.

BARELY LEGAL Heller's teen records her memories.

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5

For those of us who have begun to dread the gray bunker at the tech-friendly 3LD, Lauren Helpern’s set for The Diary of a Teenage Girl comes as sweet relief. The concrete is gone, vanished behind wooden walls that form a giant multistepped bowl, an in-the-round theater smothered in ’70s brown carpet and cheerful disco flowers. The walls—camouflaged projection screens—soon bustle with images from fake Super-8 movies and drawings from the play’s source text, the transgressive graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner. In fact, only when we focus on the play happening within the set do we start to suffer from claustrophobia again.

The trouble lies in the project’s inception. Adaptor Marielle Heller (who also plays the teen hero Minnie) read Gloeckner’s illustrated work about a 15-year-old sleeping with her mother’s boyfriend and saw it as a perfect vehicle for herself. Yet Heller’s slim, elfin coolness is completely ill-suited for playing a sloppy teen with body issues, and a graphic novel’s episodic nature translates into dramatic inertia onstage. Codirectors Sarah Cameron Sunde and Rachel Eckerling are blessed with a stunning cast—including Michael Laurence as the world’s cuddliest and most clueless pedophile—and they ask them to race about or to bounce enthusiastically on the bed. But no amount of surface activity can conceal the dramaturgical leadenness that drags this project to a standstill. Clearly, Heller loves Gloeckner’s vision, and she has thrown her entire being into adapting it. But a writer must have dramatic rhythms in her blood, or the sacrifice won’t work any magic at all.

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3LD Art & Technology Center. Adapted by Marielle Heller from a graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner. Dir. Sarah Cameron Sunde and Rachel Eckerling. With ensemble cast. 1hr 45mins. No intermission.