TV scripter David Landsberg has transported his extensive sitcom experience ("The Cosby Show," "John Larroquette Show") to the stage with mixed results.
TV scripter David Landsberg has transported his extensive sitcom experience (“The Cosby Show,” “John Larroquette Show”) to the stage with mixed results. Chronicling the tribulations of a female-challenged insurance salesman, “An Act of Love” jumps from one comedic setup to another without much logic, character development or a thematic throughline. Fortunately, helmer Casey Stangl and a facile, stage-worthy ensemble provide the proceedings with a captivating veracity.Landsberg exploits the well-worn TV device of near-caricature family dysfunction as the basis for this meandering legiter. Set entirely within the spacious digs — impressively wrought by Keith Mitchell — of Peter Sandusky (Timothy Horner), the action follows the hapless protagonist as he attempts to go on his first date since the recent breakup of his brief marriage. Impeding his progress are wayward younger sister Julia (Hedy Burress), who needs a place to crash, and his narcissistic failed-actress mother (Susan Sullivan), who has an unrelenting need to communicate how useless her children are, face to face. Stangl infuses laudably honest interactions and crisp pacing into the seemingly random scenes. The director’s efforts enable the ensemble to pull off such awkward devices as Peter writing a script and hiring his mother to perform the role of a “loving mother,” to an audience composed of two total strangers: Peter’s blind date, Maureen (Beth Kennedy), and his mother’s cab driver, Vanoush (Jay Harik). When the play acting device is summarily dropped, the cast smoothly transitions to the next arbitrary thematic moment, the sudden introduction of Julia’s equally wayward boyfriend Darwin (Lovensky Jean-Baptiste). Horner is dead-on as the socially underachieving Peter, manically attempting to dodge the plethora of feminine daggers being thrown at him. His Peter emphatically communicates his last-ditch stand to take control of his life. Sullivan’s scenery-chewing mother and Burress’ relentlessly depressed Julia make the most of their opportunities as the parent and sister who seem to exist only to make Peter’s life miserable. The highlight of the production is the hilarious perf of acclaimed yockmeister Kennedy as the issues-plagued Maureen. Kennedy brings to life an outrageous, life-challenged young woman who is worthy of a sitcom all her own. Harik’s Vanoush and Jean-Baptiste’s Darwin add much-needed vitality during their brief turns onstage.