"Album," David Rimmer's play at the Studio Theatre, wants to celebrate the rites of passage in the lives of four teen-agers -- Boo, Billy, Peggy and Trish -- growing up sexually befuddled in the 1960s. It starts one October night in 1963, with all of them blustering their way through an abortive game of strip poker. Four years (and eight painfully long scenes) later when the play ends, they finally manage to "do it." On graduation night, no less.
I doubt you will care. The only accomplishment of this mournful play is to make a fairly strong, although surely inadvertent, case for sex education in the high school classroom. Otherwise, it is likely to confirm all your worst sentiments about the American teen-ager, not a particularly graceful creature to begin with, but as painted by Rimmer, an actively unappetizing one. These four moon and whine and squabble and giggle. Then they giggle and squabble and moon and whine some more.
Will they never grow up?
Their world is defined almost exclusively by the popular music of the day, which apparently expresses all those inchoate emotions that they themselves are incapable of articulating. Trish has even taken to scribbling the lyrics from her favorite songs over the photographs in an album of family portraits -- a bald bit of symbolism for a generation that has severed any connection with the past. When they are not discussing the relative merits of the Beach Boys versus Bob Dylan, they exchange misinformation and horror tales about the sexual act. Despite their fumbling attempts to make contact with one another, however, little ever happens.
It is hard to tell why Rimmer thought these characters worthy of being put under a microscope. Peggy (Elizabeth DuVall) could be one of a thousand pretty but vapid teen-age girls. Under his cool, tough exterior, Billy (Ramsay Midwood) is a kid running scared. Trish (Jennifer Charles) is a vague blend of stupidity and kookiness, while Boo (Michael Wells) trades in his native goofiness for an ersatz rebelliousness, cribbed from Bob Dylan. Mostly, they rattle around an existential void of their own making, unaware of much in life beyond the itch to couple.
Director Sue Crystal has coaxed some realistic behavior from her cast members, but the performances are awfully tiny and predictable. Perhaps some inspired actors might be able to expand the script with insights of their own, but this quartet is content to adhere pretty much to the dull surface of things. Only DuVall, who sometimes suggests in moments of quiet the plaintive loneliness that awaits the high school beauty five years down the road, seems to see her character in a larger context.
Crystal has further aggravated a bad situation by treating "Album" as if it were a play of Chekovian complexity, drawing out its scenes like so much taffy and letting her actors luxuriate in their shallow emotions. As they struggle to express the yearnings in their callow souls, you may find yours swelling with impatience. No one should be expected to put up with these kids, other than their parents who, indicatively, are nowhere in sight.
ALBUM. By David Rimmer. Directed by Sue Crystal. Set, Lewis Folden; costumes, Henry Shaffer; lighting, Nancy Schertler. With Michael Wells, Ramsay Midwood, Jennifer Charles, Elizabeth DuVall. At the Studio through Dec. 2.