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A CurtainUp Review

feel really happy right now. — 12-year-old Lauren as she and Eliza, her best friend forever, relax at the side of a swimming pool.
I sort of wish we could just stay here forever. But I can feel it becoming a memory even as it's happening. — Eliza.

But I figured maybe, well. . .given the way my life is now, it wouldn't be bad to try some new things. Why not try to find my inner voice? Find out if that sort of thing is possible. I mean, maybe if more people had inner voices, the world would be in better shape. —Seth, explaining his presence at the self-actualizing school where he and Lauren meet.
 Laura Heisler as Eliza & Sasha Eden as Loren
Best Friends Forever Laura Heisler as Eliza & Sasha Eden as Loren
(Photo: Max Ruby)
The name of Anna Ziegler's effectively staged and emotionally affecting play about friendship and romantic love is, like that of the producing company, an acronym: BFF = Best Friends Forever. WET = Women's Expressive Theater. The story of the two best friends takes us back and forth from Lauren's (Sasha Eden) present day love affair with Seth (Jeremy Webb) to her and friend Eliza's (Laura Heisler) elementary through high school days.

Sasha Eden and Laura Heisler are enormously engaging as the best friends forever, as is Jeremy Webb as the kind of sensitive, charming boyfriend who should happen to every single girl in New York practicing her Yoga at a self-actualization training center. Commendable as this tight little ensemble is, Laura Heisler's performance falls into that something special and truly unforgettable category. She makes Eliza at once funny and incredibly sad and vulnerable. Even when not saying a word, and no matter what the situation, her face and body language fill in the feelings left out from her words. She manages to make some of Eliza's wise beyond her years comments totally believable (As when her delight in a soothing breeze prompts this comment that is seamlessly repeated by Lauren in a later scene with Seth: "Like we could be in the middle of nowhere at any point in history. Like people have been feeling this breeze for all of eternity. Like this could be August in 1891 or 1691 and we have no idea what's coming next even though it's all bound to happen; it'll happen no matter what, like space travel or women's rights; we're just, well, we're just in the middle of all this wind."

By the time Lauren introduces herself to Seth as Eliza (for reasons revealed and unpeeled like the perennial onion skin) and has her first date with him, it's as if he's stepped out of the imaginary image of the "right person" conjured up by Eliza (the Heisler Eliza) during a conversation at an outdoor swimming pool when the girls were twelve. He's sexy, funny and has a scret (his dad's death just a year ago) about which he can talk only to her-- and yes he's " a little awkward but in a sweet way."

Though the adolescent flashbacks are prompted by Lauren's somehow guilt-driven inability to let herself enjoy and go with her budding and obviously meant-to-be romance with Seth, the banter during these flashbacks is hilariously on target. Given less sensitively developed characters and interrelationships, Ms. Ziegler's play could easily be a pilot for a teen audience geared sitcom. But there's nothing TV-ish or couch potato dumb about BFF. The pain and guilt that have made Lauren a loner and the grief at his father's death a year earlier that Seth is still dealing with are authentic and handled with considerable delicacy. The scenes showing the budding if not smooth sailing romance developing are, like the friendship scenes, set up naturally and with finely nuanced dialogue. From their meeting when Seth arrives early for a class precociously described as "finding your inner voice in a post 9/11 landscape" we sense that both he and Lauren are not your average club-hopping New York singles. Like the flashbacks, the present day romantic interludes are enriched with humor, but with the more serious concerns of these young people never very far from the surface.

While it comes as no surprise that the forever part of this BFF saga is going to come under assault and probably with tragic consequences, when the expected happens, it is nevertheless surprising and devastating.

Director Josh Hecht maintains the momentum needed to move the dual plot through its twenty-three time-travelling scenes, but the play would benefit from being trimmed by at least twenty minutes. Robin Vest has worked wonders to create a variety of settings on this itty-bitty sized stage and the prop handlers, as well as the actors, effect the scene changes with lightning speed. However, even David Stephen Baker's lovely and apt intra-scene music and Clifton Taylor's subtle lighting can't keep all this moving and removing of props from being distracting. Fortunately, not enough so, to make this the sort of play sure to attract the young audiences writers, directors and producers are so eager to introduce to the pleasures of live theater.

Written by Anna Ziegler
Directed by Josh Hecht
Cast: Sasha Eden, Laura Heisler, and Jeremy Webb
Sets: Robin Vest
Costumes: Sara Jean Tosetti
Lights: Clifton Taylor
Original Music & Sound: David Stephen Baker
Projections: Kevin R. Frech
Running Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes, with no intermission
DR2, 103 East 15th Street 212-239-6200
From 2/17/07 to 3/17/07--extended before opening to 3/24/07and again to 3/31/07; opening 2/24/07.
Monday to Saturday @8pm.
Tickets: $35, $25.
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based February 22nd performance
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