The Freshman 15/Life in Transition

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Editorial Review

‘Freshman': Umm, like, Cliches 101
By Jessica Goldstein
Friday, July 20, 2012

Watching Homegrown Theatre’s “The Freshman 15/Life in Transition” is like watching a bunch of reality TV confessionals, over and over and over again, for 75 minutes.

The Capital Fringe Festival play dips into the college coming-of-age well, where there’s certainly much to explore: drinking, drugs, sex, rape, pressure, failure, heartache. But the structure of the play keeps the cast from analyzing these oft-considered topics in any novel way. The actors rarely interact with one another; scenes are divided by short bursts of music and the shuffling around of chairs, as the actors stumble about as if they are drunk and hung over simultaneously.

None of their revelations is particularly revelatory. Cliches about party schools and the college “bubble” abound. Stereotypes are trotted out -- vegans go to Oberlin! Undergrads wear North Face fleeces! JMU girls are “blonde and pretty . . . but, like, empty inside!” -- and are sent away unexamined. There are plenty of cheap swipes at the usual suspects (sorority girls, frat guys, wealthy students) and the predictable deification of others (students on scholarship, recent grads drowning in debt).

The dialogue is so peppered with “likes” and “umms,” you get the sense the actors are making it up on the spot, and it’s hard not to leave with the feeling that these real-life 20-somethings have a low regard for their fellow 20-somethings.

There are flashes of insight -- about how hookup culture can leave a person feeling used, about how having fun at college can be a lot harder than it looks -- but for the most part, the play fails to make you think about anything you haven’t already thought about before.