In Jeanette Bonner’s one-woman show Love Guts High School, Bonner takes us back to her own high school days to take a look at first love. There are lots of “first love” stories out there, but Bonner’s gets a little extra grit from its painful honesty confronting the consequences when that first love doesn’t exactly return your feelings. The boy who is the apple of young Jeanette’s eye likes her well enough to sleep with her, but not well enough to be there for her.
While that sounds a bit depressing, I’m happy to say this solo show is actually a ruefully comic reflection on adolescent naivete. Bonner is a magnetic and precise performer, and has more than a little wit as a writer. When we first see her, she is trying to decide if the boy loves her back, not by plucking petals off a flower, but by consulting a Magic 8 Ball that she manhandles until it tells her what she wants to hear. These kind of quirky details help maintain our interest.
Bonner has a flair for the theatrical that isn’t fully integrated with the form of the show. She presents us with scene after scene in which she bares her heart to a series of unseen listeners. But in these scenes, she very often breaks into a multi-character storytelling style, which doesn’t quite jibe with idea that she is carrying on a casual conversation.
In a scene late in the show, she self-consciously talks about her love life to a bus full of tourists – it is one of the evening’s most engaging and funny moments. It would improve the show considerably if Bonner could figure out a way to expand this self-dramatizing approach, painting herself even larger-than-life than she already has. That said, she already has an compact, entertaining show. Not deeply insightful, but not thoughtless either.
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For more reviews and interviews by Jonathan Warman, see his blog Drama Queen.