Review: ‘Crashing Heaven’

There is considerable talent ensconced within this coming-to-enlightenment-at-40 dramedy, written by and starring Carlos Lacamara. But despite the facile staging of Michael Edwards and the able assistance of a first-rate ensemble, Lacamara's jaundiced scrutiny of one man's angst-ridden search for God never develops beyond a series of simplistic and often caricaturistic "spiritual truth" comedy sketches.

There is considerable talent ensconced within this coming-to-enlightenment-at-40 dramedy, written by and starring Carlos Lacamara. But despite the facile staging of Michael Edwards and the able assistance of a first-rate ensemble, Lacamara’s jaundiced scrutiny of one man’s angst-ridden search for God never develops beyond a series of simplistic and often caricaturistic “spiritual truth” comedy sketches.

Having turned 40, Tony Santos (Lacamara) lives a totally uncommitted, “knee-jerk” lifestyle, devoid of emotional depth or religious belief. He has been indoctrinated by his father James (J. Kenneth Campbell), who would answer Tony’s youthful theological questions with replies such as, “Why was Jesus Christ killed? Because he had a big mouth.”

When James dies in an auto accident, Tony’s grasp on emotional stability begins to disintegrate, leading him on a panic-driven quest to find out if there is a higher truth than mere existence and whether there is a God in whom he can believe.

Tony’s desperate search for spiritual relevance appears to be completely arbitrary, despite the implied added emotional traumas of being fired from his job and dumped by his girlfriend. There is simply no reason for the audience to spend so much time with this self-serving little man who is going through so much trouble to find out so little.

Lacamara (perhaps best known for his series regular turn as Paco on the NBC series, “Nurses”) exudes a mild but constant bemusement as Tony, who is looking for “meaning” in all the wrong places. Despite his stated desire to learn, Lacamara’s Tony always appears to be on the outside looking in on the myriad shenanigans that befall him.

The only times Tony seems truly interested is when he is trying bed down with new-age junkie Rebecca (Cynthia Ettinger) or rekindle his romance with former girlfriend Stacy (Jennifer Parsons).

The production is enlivened by the recurring appearances of Campbell and Mary Boucher as Tony’s parents. Campbell offers a hilarious study of opinionated, social incorrectness as the deceased James who keeps invading Tony’s psyche. Boucher exhibits exquisite comic timing as Mary, whose benign acceptance of life undercuts whatever nonsense her son is going through.

The production is also blessed with a supporting ensemble that invests accurate portrayals in multiple roles. Lance Guest segues quite nicely from understated, level-headed best friend Jeff to the over-the-top, guitar pounding Rocker Parson. Lee Garlington weaves in and out as a no-nonsense professor, a series of sarcastic waitresses and Tony’s long-suffering Aunt Maggie, who acts as a catalyst to our hero’s eventual salvation.

Patrick Rowe is quite effective as a gibberish-spouting tele-evangelist but his constant intrusions into the proceedings are more distracting than useful.

Crashing Heaven

The Court Theatre: 99 seats; $20 top

Production

City Stage presents a play in two acts by Carlos Lacamara, directed by Michael Edwards. Producer, Danna Hyams. Set design, Burris Jackes; costumes, Lee Kartis; lighting, Kathi O'Donohue; sound design, Brian Rimbaugh. Opened, reviewed Oct. 28, 1999; runs until Dec. 19. Running time: 2 hours.

Cast

Tony Carlos Lacamara Jeff/Rocker Parson Lance Guest James J. Kenneth Campbell Mary Mary Boucher Stacy/Jill Jennifer Parsons Rebecca Cynthia Ettinger Preacher Patrick Rowe Aunt Maggie/Professor Lee Garlington Eric/Phil/Dirk James K. Ward Jackie Cooter/ Lancelot/Monk Jerry Lambert Susan/Cindy Tina Alexis Allen
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