Dallas — High school is tough on your average American girl.
It’s not just dealing with the snotty popular girls at lunch time in the cafeteria. She’s got to make a best friend, get along with parents who just aren’t like everybody else’s folks, and also find some kind of sport she’s halfway good at. Oh, and she has to make some school reports once in a while. I mean, it’s school.
In Space Girl, by Mora V. Harris, Arugula (a pouty Kelsey Buckley) is having a hard time fitting in at an Earthling high school because she’s a 16-year-old “alien from the planet Zlagdor.” She also discovers she’s a lesbian when she starts skating with some butch girls at the roller derby, and that takes some adjusting.
The play, staged by Flexible Grey Theatre Company in the upstairs gallery of the Dallas Children’s Theater, has some fun with the alien girl’s native language (a loud screech) and her habit of socking tacky classmates in the eye. Still the play remains a conventional troubled teen story in which the heroine learns after 90 minutes of talk and a lot of scene changes just who her real friends are, but at a cost.
Another mostly gratuitous twist is that Arugula and her dad Nancy (a chatty, angular Blake McNamara) are sent from another galaxy to decide if Earth is worth saving. Tough call, given that the environment is the pits, teenage girls are mostly mean to each other, teachers are heartless and dull, and nobody cares that the planet is, like, dying.
In the first scene, a narrator (Courtney Mentzel) stands in front of a screen projecting the Milky Way and tells the 18 audience members on opening night that “stars are bread crumbs of the universe” leading us to understand that we are all “itty bitty little bits” in the big scheme of things. Later, a draped figure with blinking antennas issues a warning to the busy dad to give up on Earth.
Meanwhile, back in the cafeteria, Arugula meets nice, lonely Charlotte (earnest, smiling Tevia Loeser) and figures out what a friend does: talk to you when the popular girls sneer at your outfit and go home with you after school for more talk. Arugula also goes to roller derby and falls for strong, kindly Bruise Springsteen (pert Cameron Casey in a butch cut and short skirt).
After 90 minutes of girl talk, face-offs with the high school counselor, and many laugh-lite lines about salad names and human customs, Arugula and Nancy have to makes some big decisions. What’s so special about Earth, anyway? Happily, although not surprisingly, Arugula discovers that in addition to sweet Charlotte and sexy Bruise, she also loves the Beatles songs she’s memorized. “Norwegian Wood” plays in the background when we see the cosmos projected once more on the screen behind the playing space.
The seven members of the Space Girl cast, directed by Azucena White and Seth Johnson, bring a sweet, youthful energy to their roles, but the often-bland dialogue and clichéd plot slows the action, despite their efforts. The Beatles songs in the background are refreshing, and cute girls in roller skates are always fun. There’s that to be said for planet Earth.