Review: ‘Perfect’

So much is so wrong with writer-actor Mark Kassen's misbegotten one-acter that it's almost awe-inspiring that the production manages to cram it all into a mere 85 minutes.

So much is so wrong with writer-actor Mark Kassen’s misbegotten one-acter that it’s almost awe-inspiring that the production manages to cram it all into a mere 85 minutes. Kassen intersperses a series of undramatic facts about the medical use of sperm sorting to pre-select the sex of a child with the underwhelming trials and tribulations of callow Manhattan yuppies trying to conceive a “Perfect” baby girl. The production’s arbitrary use of multimedia adds more junk to the mix but does nothing to enhance or clarify the proceedings. Neither does an insecure ensemble under Charles Otte’s awkward direction. Rising above the chaos is a multicharacter tour de force perf by Padua Hills Playwrights Festival vet Lola Glaudini, who deserves much better.

“Perfect” bogs down almost immediately with the creaky device of using a video documentarian (Logan Ernstthal) to chronicle the pregnancy of twentysomething Anna (Judy Greer) and hubby Andrew (playwright Kassen). It appears a film company is paying for the couple’s attempt to conceive a girl by the use of a sperm-sorting procedure under the supervision of Dr. Chalk (Richard Kind). The only stipulation is that the film company be allowed to film every aspect of the process, from conception to birth, and to conduct video interviews with everyone the couple knows, including Anna’s spacey best friend Tarro (Glaudini), Adam’s ad agency boss (Kind) and his bachelor brother Caleb (Adam Kassen).

Conducted by benign-to-the-extreme Ernstthal, these stilted interviews (projected as enlarged live images onto the back wall of Clayton Tripp’s nondescript but serviceable set) prevent the drama from gaining any momentum. At best, they give Dr. Chalk a forum for advancing his medical agenda as he takes a few pot-shots at government agencies that have condemned his research to the private sector for funding. They also manage to showcase the versatility of Glaudini, who offers dead on portrayals as “Sex and the City” wannabe Tarro and Andrew’s understated, unapologetic single mother.

The main weakness in this concept, however, lies in the totally unbelievable relationship of Anna and Andrew. Their problems have nothing to do with their efforts to have a child. Both are entrenched in the high school dating mentality of deferring to friends rather than confiding in each other, and the eventual marital trauma lacks any dramatic impact, as it is foretold from the opening scene.

Despite the weaknesses in the production, Mark Kassen is credible as the insecure Andrew, who is emotionally ill-equipped to sort out the myriad responsibilities inherent in being an adult. One of the highlights of the production is Andrew’s transparent efforts to sidestep a casual sexual fling with a commercial actress, played to the sensual hilt by Glaudini. Not faring as well is Greer, who never establishes a viable character and at times seems at a loss as to Anna’s motivation.

Kind never appears comfortable in his Dr. Chalk persona but is on the mark as Andrew’s comically ambivalent boss and in his brief turn as Anna’s stiff-necked father. In a smaller supporting role, Adam Kassen is effective as Andrew’s playboy brother, who is totally against any lasting involvements.

Despite the play’s hype, which promises to “revolutionize the way we view theater,” the sloppy, ever-changing rear projected video designs by Jonas are no substitute for an adequate set.

Perfect

Tiffany Theater; 99 seats; $25 top

Production

Shades of Gray Prods. presents a play in one act by Mark Kassen. Directed by Charles Otte.

Creative

Sets, Clayton Tripp; lights, Otte; costumes, Nancy Fisher; sound, Peter Carlstedt; video, Jonas. Opened, reviewed Oct. 8, 2001; runs through Nov. 11. Running time: 1 HOUR, 25 MIN.

Cast

Andrew - Mark Kassen
Anna - Judy Greer
Dr. Chalk/Gregory/Steven - Richard Kind
Tarro/Nurse/Judith/Cheryl/Jillian - Lola Glaudini
Caleb - Adam Kassen
Documentarian - Logan Ernstthal
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