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New Ohio Theatre, New York City

Spice Girls, Ring Pops and glitter pens – you are entering the late ‘90s/early ‘00s, and it’s a hell of a time warp!

Produced by Antigravity Performance Project and presented by New Ohio Theatre, Dear Diary LOL is a relatable joyride through adolescence.

The words and emotions expressed in young girls’ diaries from their preteens were no laughing matter when they were being written. However, dig those babies out of a time capsule years later, as Dear Diary LOL has literally done, and they are ripe with hilarious awkwardness and passion. Francesca Montanile Lyons from Antigravity Performance Project is the lead artist and co-director of this devised work, as well as one of the diarists that makes up the verbatim text for the piece. As she explains at the show’s start, all the words spoken in this production come from real life diaries of girls aged 12-16 in the late 1990’s or early 2000’s. It is a collection of diary entries woven together to make one shared narrative that the ensemble cast (Kelly Conrad, Alicia Crosby, Jessica M. Johnson, Jenna Strusowski and Megan Thibodeaux) skillfully and lovingly bring to life.

A consistent thread in this cross-section of girls’ diaries is, not surprisingly, the presence of boys, and all the confusion that goes along with that: “does he like me,” “do I like him more than a friend,” “will anyone ever like me like that,” “what is gum kissing,” “am I the only person that’s ever felt this way?” As one of the girl’s diary entry reads, “today nothing really happened that had to do with boys,” alluding to the pointlessness of writing an entry should it not highlight an interaction with the opposite sex. Brian, who is played silently and brilliantly by co-director Michael T. Williams, holds the starring role in these five girls’ diary entries, placing his thoughts and actions before their own. However, this piece does not only focus on the young girls and their crushes; it also touches on bigger issues of social norms, anxiety, desire, and race. For instance, Tatiana, played beautifully by Jessica M. Johnson, is overjoyed and validated when she is finally kissed by Brian, her longtime crush, even if it only happened because “he’s never kissed a black girl before.” Once the endorphins and hormones subside, Tatiana deals with the complexity of having her whole wonderful self reduced to an item on a check list, thereby feeling both happy for having gotten that which she desired but hurt for the reason in which she got it.

Without speaking to the show’s creator and collaborators, it is not clear if Dear Diary LOL was born in support of and reaction to the “Me Too” movement. However, one would be remiss to deny the undercurrent of these issues found in the diary pages of these preteen girls decades ago, and not to acknowledge their place in the culture of these women today.

This ensemble of women, and the directors behind them, expose these diary entries with great empathy and kindness, never making the girls’ personal stories a vehicle for basic comic relief. Rather, the characters are portrayed as real girls who’ve felt big, sometimes complicated human emotions, and as they navigate through the muck of adolescent issues, the audience is invited to recognize their younger selves in these girls, and enjoy the absurdity of youth rather than mock them for their missteps as they grow into themselves. That said, Dear Diary LOL is truly a laugh out loud experience. From the bad poetry and pained song lyrics to the sex education via a Cruel Intentions VHS tape and Christina Aguilera sing-alongs, Dear Diary LOL gives the audience a nostalgic flashback into simpler yet emotionally turbulent times.

  • Comedy
  • Created and performed by Kelly Conrad, Alicia Crosby, Nikki Hudgins, Jessica Johnson, Francesca Montanile Lyons, Jenna Strusowski, Megan Thibodeaux and Michael T. Williams
  • Directed by Francesca Montanile Lyons & Michael T. Williams
  • New Ohio Theatre, New York City
  • Until 29 September 2018

About The Author

Reviewer (USA)

Nicole Cardoni is a New York based performer/writer, hailing from Toronto, Canada. She teaches a Film History and Criticism class at The Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theatre in Manhattan and performs regularly in various film, television and experimental theatre projects. She is a member of the New York ensemble theatre companies BrickaBrack and PopUP Theatrics. Nicole is a lover of all things narrative, with a warm spot for theatrical new works.

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