Playwright John C. Russell might have been a fly on the wall in the school cafeteria when he wrote this endearing and insightful teen drama about sex and power in a suburban American high school, aptly named Joe McCarthy High. Jim (Michael Grant Terry) and Judy (Tessa Thomson) are two blessedly beautiful people, attracted to each other and with enough quirkiness to keep them from running with the herd. The pair tread the borders of peer acceptance by befriending two outsiders, Neechee (Ryan Spahn) and Kimberly (Kelly Schumann). Gay and “geeky,” the latter are smart, sensitive would-be poets. The affections of all get tested when the ruling school clan — led by Judy's discarded ex-boyfriend — demands that Jim and Judy cut their ties to their loyal friends, as well as undergo ritual humiliation, before being accepted into the in-crowd. Directed by Michael Matthews, the four-person ensemble is spot-on from first moment to last — each crafting a distinct and beguiling persona. Indeed, scanning the predominantly aging audience, I saw many, like myself, recalling their own vulnerable juvenescence, with its roller-coasting blend of exuberant narcissism, raging hormones and emotional volatility. The piped-in rock & roll sounds canny, but Marvin Tunney's choreography furnishes yet another plus, with one solo gambol by Thompson being a special treat.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: Feb. 15. Continues through April 6, 2008

LA Weekly