Paper Dreams and Plastic Promises, Sandbox Theatre Project, at the Athenaeum Theatre. Let's make a rule. Let's say that college theater majors may not make professional use of material developed in class for at least five years after graduation. No, seven. That way, they'll have some time to consider whether the world really needs to see their student honors project before the world actually sees it. This little reform should save everybody a lot of inconvenience.
Unfortunately, it will arrive too late to benefit Cliff Chamberlain, who created this one-man autobiographical show just over two years ago as a student at the University of California-Santa Barbara. What must have looked like promising work on campus comes across here as annoyingly collegiate: a callow, cloying, self-congratulatory, occasionally garbled, essentially unnecessary exercise in adolescent narcissism. Chamberlain leads us through his life from conception to the moment when he resolves to throw himself into the theatrical world. Though he gives the saga a strenuously ingratiating recital, nothing very remarkable happens. We see him resent and bond with his younger brother, play with the neighborhood kids, and suffer the insecurities of teen geekdom before arriving at the feet of a superior drama professor who apparently teaches him everything that at this point he only half knows.
Paper Dreams and Plastic Promises is hampered by a poorly limned narrative structure, sloppy performance techniques, an overbearingly frenetic rhythm, and a two-hour running time that might easily be cut by half. Or whole.