If the thought of infiltrating a reality TV dating show in order to expose all its phoniness doesn’t tickle your funnybone, you don’t live in playwright Itamar Moses’ universe.
Moses did his research in front of the idiot box, watching episodes of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” then teamed up on lyrics with old friend Gaby Alter while Alter wrote the rock-inspired songs for the new musical “Nobody Loves You.”
Another old friend, Michelle Tattenbaum (now a neighbor in Brooklyn), was tapped to direct the world premiere, which plays through June 17 at The Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre.
Here’s the setup: Philosophy grad student Jeff (Adam Kantor) drives girlfriend Tanya (Nicole Lewis) away with his aversion to her favorite reality dating show. She decides to leave him and try to get on the show to find the man “who is already the guy I want you to be.”
He follows, in an attempt to get her back, and wouldn’t you know, he’s picked for the show (What a PR coup! A guy who hates reality TV!) while Tanya does not make the cut.
He’s about to stomp off in a self-righteous huff when the notion of using the experience as a blockbuster dissertation topic captivates him. He stays.
What follows is a fitfully charming, mostly amusing parody of this particular flavor of reality show in which host Byron (Heath Calvert) sets up and announces the pairings and activities while Jeff records trenchant comments on his cell phone ... until the above-it-all academic finds himself seduced by fame (“Being famous feels like love”).
The show benefits from intriguing characters who bond in odd combinations, leading to awkwardly goofy scenes like the one in which seen-it-all alcoholic Megan (Lauren Molina) tries to drag straight-arrow (and aptly named) Christian (Kelsey Kurz) into the hot tub.
And of course, there’s the obligatory embarrassment of the Crush Ceremony, in which one person is eliminated each night.
It’s difficult to know whether any of the contestants on the “real” shows actually believe any kind of lasting liaison will – or could – be made in this ultra-hyped and phony atmosphere. Statistics indicate that 90% of the engagements so made result in splits, but Moses has another point to make: Do we even know reality when we see it? Do we care?
I have a confession: This is not my kind of reality show – give me the late lamented “Queer Eye For The Straight Guy” or “What Not To Wear” anytime.
But Moses and his collaborators have found their way to an engaging and entertaining show. The excellent cast sings, dances and acts well, the songs are clever and the under-the-stage band is fine. The lone problem is that the decibel level needs to be lowered.
What happens to Jeff? You’ll have to go and find out for yourself.
World premiere of “Nobody Loves You” plays through June 17 at the Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park.
Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 pm; Thursday and Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 and 7 pm.
For tickets, call (619) 234-5623 or visit HERE.
To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.