Playwright: Christina Calvit (adaptation)
At: Griffin Theatre, 5404 N. Clark
Phone: (773) 769-2228; $10-$20
Runs through: March 14
The Off-Loop enigma is how small theaters with 50 seats tops, no money and unknown actors can create works of joy, imagination and style. It doesn't happen every time but it can happen any time. Griffin Theatre has done it again with Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging, a work of sophisticated yet adolescent delights that anyone 12 and up should enjoy.
Christina Calvit's adaptation of Louise Rennisons's novel is fast and skillful, although it abandons the novel's diary-style narrative and doesn't really give Angus—a pet cat—an intrinsic role. The tale is neither deep nor heavy and the creators know it, keeping a tongue-in-cheek tone as they traverse the largely superficial world of 14-year-old girls: hair, boys, noses, boys, parents, boys, school, boys, sex, boys. The girls are British, but it's all the same. Georgia is the focus. She fears the red spot on her nose never will go away, and yearns to learn about kissing. She does, but her kissing lessons from creepy Peter and her flirtation with leatherboy Mark nearly ruin her reputation with 17-year-old dreamboy Robbie, who sings in a band. But true puppy love wins out. Georgia snags Robbie and declares 'I am the girlfriend of a sex god, a sex goddess by definition.' Of course, they don't actually have sex in this wholesome tale.
The show's a 90-minute delight with its semi-pop art scenic design (Alan Donahue) of lavender, lime green and hot pink doors and floors; costumes (Elizabeth Shaffer) of bright red-plaid schoolgirl outfits and just enough leather to keep fetishists happy; and unexpected song-and-dance number (by George Howe) by the gentlemen of the company explaining the phrase 'See you later.'
Directors Richard Barletta and Jennie Cleghorn keep the energetic cast on the move, with Georgia and her girlfriends screaming with delight every time they meet and most of the actors playing multiple roles. There's a German teacher who resembles Hitler, a slutty adolescent shoplifter, Georgia's half-puppet baby sister (Kay Perdue is a stitch), Georgia's Goth cat Angus (Paul S. Holmquist in chains and fur) and others. Chicago newcomers Katherine Nawrocki and Billy Gill are Georgia and Robbie; Nawrocki a high-spirited Georgy Girl who's not overly pretty but ready to blossom, and tall, slim Gill a boyish charmer with a dazzling smile. Another newcomer, Kevin Kingston, plays Georgia's other boys in leering, swivel-hipped, cameo caricature gems. The remaining ensemble members—Michelle Holder, Sara Hoyer, Katie Jeep and Matthew Lon Walker—are fresh and full of ginger as well.