Felt, at Live Bait Theater. A young student teacher is faced with a stomach-turning decision when her mentor/lover is accused of child molestation. Should she trust her instincts or the evidence amassing against him? Despite the TV-movie-of-the-week premise, Jeff Griggs’s hour-long show has the makings of a fairly gripping psychodrama. But at this point it’s something between a fleshy outline and a fully developed play. Griggs builds the tension almost seamlessly, cleverly splicing together police interrogation scenes and flashbacks that feed suspicion’s flame with gossip and information supplied by two other characters (solidly played by Jason Chin, as a friend and local police officer, and Nicky Margolis, as a fellow teacher and racy drinking buddy).
Other elements feel choppy, however, particularly the progression of the love affair from forbidden relationship to first-date heavy petting to a marriage that’s barely mentioned. And the production’s biggest disappointment is the absence of genuine chemistry between the two leads. While Griggs himself as Travis maintains a natural presence throughout–initially genial and affectionate, then increasingly defensive–Nickie Vavrik as Jamie does little more than make tortured doe eyes and project an uncomfortable sexuality. Since the play is less about solving a mystery than it is about Jamie’s struggle, Vavrik needs to move beyond her two or three whispery notes and commit to the character’s rich emotional stew–a confusing tangle of loyalty, guilt, and doubt.