Are the slings and arrows of life suffered by actors, writers and directors more relevant than those endured by plumbers, accountants or ditch diggers? Prolific playwright Joe Pintauro (“The Dead Boy,” “Men’s Lives,” “Beside Herself”) certainly thinks so. Comprising six short playlets, Pintauro’s take on the monumentally narcissistic wailings of a disparate group of showbiz folk is occasionally entertaining when it’s not being tediously overstated. Helmer Geo Hartley has harnessed the talents of a large, capable ensemble, including Academy Award nominee Patty McCormack (“The Bad Seed”), TV vet Priscilla Barnes (“Three’s Company”) and award-winning thesp Carolyn Hennesy (upcoming “Engaging Peter”), but he can’t overcome the myopic redundancy of the text.
The throwaway opening segment, “Climate,” focuses on the self-pitying angst of working actor Craig (Jay Lacopo), who has just been fired from his lead role in a feature. While he ponders his loss of innocence and a desire to return to the New York stage, wife Anna Marie (Justine Reiss) rails against his sudden inability to keep her in the California lifestyle she needs for survival. He flees into the arms of first wife Catherine (P.B. Hutton) and they wax nostalgic about the good old days, when they were young and happy in Gotham. Pintauro’s clever dialogue bounces off itself without ever making contact with a viable plot.
Same can be said of a “Bus Stop Diner” confrontation involving Martin (Rod Britt), an aging Tennessee Williams-ish playwright, who is appalled at the treatment his play is given by enthusiastic but thoroughly unskilled tyro director Reynolds (Nick Salamone). The two trade sob stories, but the only veracity to the scene comes from the comic interjections of hard-bitten playwright-turned-waitress Roxanne (Dolorita Noonan).
The first-act closer, “$20 Drinks,” highlights the talents of comic actress Hennesy, believable as an insecure recent Academy Award winner attempting to re-balance her relationship with down-on-her-luck former friend and stage colleague Bete (Laura Skill). Hennesy and Skill manage to establish a tangible rapport despite an overabundance of meandering dialogue that pushes the scene far beyond its worth.
Things pick up in the second act. The highlight of the evening is “Meeting Toby,” a hilarious restaurant confrontation featuring aging actress Leslie (Barnes), her successful former hubby, Jason (Lee Ryan), and Jason’s trophy wife, Toby (Jenifer Kingsley). Barnes exudes a delicious malevolence as Leslie’s acidic barbs rain nonstop on frustrated Jason and a surprisingly benign Toby. The plot goes askew, but perfs by all three are superb.
“Matinee Night” features a Pirandello-esque verbal pas de deux between a tightly wound actor (Kyle T. Heffner) and a neophyte interviewer (Juliette Jeffers) from the Wall Street Journal. Heffner spews a lot of actor-prepares-for-his-role jargon in his circuitous efforts to ask the reporter out on a date. Unfortunately, Heffner and Jeffers devote more effort to dialogue than to establishing any believable attraction for one another.
The show closer, “Serious Drama,” features a winning portrayal by McCormack as a stage star-turned-acting teacher whose career disappointments are momentarily assuaged by the earnest desire of young priest-turned-actor Jerry (Brian Coughlin) to study at her academy. The plot is nonsensical, but McCormack and Coughlin are charming as the sympathetic old pro and the callow would-be thespian.