All parents know that at some point somebody's going to say a mean thing about their kids, doubtless more than once. And if they're on social media, somebody's going to say something mean about them online. When that happens, clearly the only responsible thing to do is cyberstalk that other person and try to ruin her life. Wait, what?
This case study in parenting gone severely awry comes to us courtesy of Crystal Springs, a self-produced world premiere by Bay Area playwright Kathy Rucker at San Francisco's Eureka Theatre. Loosely inspired by true stories, it's a grim drama for six women that unfolds in reverse chronological order. While that's an intriguing approach, it also means that the more shocking revelations are all at the beginning of the play, and the rest is just filling in the blanks about who pissed off whom and how.
The basic premise is similar to Carlos Murillo's 2005 play Dark Play or Stories for Boys, which Do It Live! Productions performed at San Francisco's Exit Theatre last year: Someone creates a fake profile to seduce an acquaintance online as a cruel prank, which goes horribly awry. But while in Dark Play the experiment is a sociopathic whim, in Crystal Springs it's equal parts petty revenge and misguided overprotectiveness.
Rucker's play is given a sleek and stripped-down staging by British director Anna Jordan, who'll also direct it in September at London's Park Theatre. Dominated by a large video screen, the minimal set is made up of several plain gray blocks against a plain gray wall. The rest of the cast sits on the blocks in the background and watches silently when not in a particular scene. Mark Jenkins' projection design accompanies each scene with a still image of some background detail, such as two coffee cups or one arm of a couch, and sound designer Brendan Aanes subtly accentuates the atmosphere with faint crowd murmurs or muffled music from down the street.
Marissa Keltie is particularly powerful as Haley, the depressed misfit teenager who suddenly finds herself the victim of online abuse. Siobhan FitzGerald is sullen and secretive in a fairly normal high school way as Jenna, Haley's sometime best friend. Judging from the way their moms interact, that friendship may have lasted only a matter of weeks; it's hard to know.