Actress Jennifer Damiano sits in the lobby of the Mercer Hotel in SoHo eating a hamburger about as big as her head. The petite 19-year-old's alabaster skin accentuates her large brown eyes, and her oversize black sweatshirt fits like a cloak. "Mary Jane is one of the humans in this cartoon-esque chaos," the Westchester, New York, native says of her character, the famously unrequited to impossible love interest of Peter Parker in the new Broadway musical Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark, which opens in December. "She's got fire. She's not a sad damsel in distress." Damiano ponders a moment and admits, "Well, she does get captured here and there." For those trapped in an orbiting satellite without any communications system, Spider-Man is the most anticipated spectacular to hit the Great White Way since, well, ever. Directed by Julie Taymor, the musical was scored by U2's Bono and The Edge. "The music touched me," the actress says earnestly. Although still a teen, Damiano is already a theater veteran. While still in high school, she appeared in Spring Awakening, followed by a turn as the angst-ridden daughter of a manic-depressive in last year's Pulitzer-winning Next to Normal. She's also ventured over into television, but has yet to make the foothold she's found on stage. In 2008, she moonlighted on Gossip Girl. "I was on one episode!" she exclaims with mortification. "I played Leighton Meester's doppelganger. I had to ferociously make out with some kid I'd never met." Damiano thinks she may one day do films, but the theater beckons now. "I'm trying to change peoples' lives!" she says. "I'm totally kidding. I'm always trying to convince myself there's something important about what I do. But some peoples' lives are really altered by a night at the theater."
Photo: Jennifer Damiano in New York City, September 2010. Shirt: ChloÉ. Shorts: Fendi. All Jewelry: Vintage. Shoes: Rochas. Styling: Karen Kaiser. Hair: John Ruggiero. Makeup: Kristin Hilton.