‘Crystal Springs’ targets cyberbullying 

click to enlarge Crystal Springs
  • COURTESY DAVID ALLEN
  • Siobhan FitzGerald, left, and Marissa Keltie play teenagers whose friendship is tested by bullying in “Crystal Springs.”
Schoolyard bullying is an age-old problem that’s finally getting proper attention these days. And now: cyberbullying. But what’s bad for kids makes for good theater.

Aurora Theatre Company’s recent production of “Gidion’s Knot” is an excellent example. Whether you’ve been the victim, the parent, the bully or the bystander, there is always a way to connect emotionally to tales like these.

Bay Area writer Kathy Rucker’s world premiere of “Crystal Springs,” an independent production, is a potentially worthy addition to the canon. Inspired by several true stories, the play is full of intricate plot details that, although they demonstrate how an accumulation of tiny conflicts, resentments and bad behavior can lead to tragedy, do not at this stage of development add up to a satisfying theatrical piece.

Evolving in reverse chronological order over the course of two-plus years — a device that maximizes intrigue but can prove confusing if things rush by too fast, which they do here — the short play is set in a small middle-American town, Crystal Springs.

Nerdy teenager Haley (Marissa Keltie), with an overly controlling mother, Rose, has a falling-out with her best friend, Jenna (Siobhan FitzGerald).

Jenna’s family recently has moved to a new neighborhood, across the street from Haley’s family. When Rose rejects overtures of friendship from Jenna’s rage-aholic mother, Linda — and when Jenna misbehaves by talking on the phone to a stranger she met online, and draws the more submissive Haley into an ill-advised social-media prank — the seeds for Haley’s eventual meltdown are planted.

Two other characters — a journalist, whose existence serves merely as a plot device to help us follow the story, and a needy young woman who plays a key role in the incident that finally drives Haley to despair — dilute the intensity of the primary interactions.

The two vulnerable teens are both on anti-depressants — Haley apparently since grade school — and both are sensitive and fairly expressive. “No matter what I do, I don’t fit in,” Haley laments in a self-made confessional video.

Unfortunately, under Anna Jordan’s direction, the actors barrel through too many scenes in too short a time frame. Emotional transitions and outbursts, and even less dramatic conversations, feel inauthentic.

Although Rucker’s characters are underdeveloped, and she doesn’t sufficiently explore their relationships to the depth required by the seriousness of the topic, the script is an interesting one that, with further work, could be the basis of a strong production.

REVIEW

Crystal Springs

Where: Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; closes March 23

Tickets: $45 to $65

Contact: (800) 838-3006, www.CrystalSpringsThePlay.com

About The Author

Jean Schiffman

Jean Schiffman

Bio:
Jean Schiffman is a freelance arts writer specializing in theatre. Some of her short stories and personal essays have been published in newspapers and small literary magazines. She is an occasional book copy editor and also has a background in stage acting. Her book “The Working Actor’s Toolkit” was published... more
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