College graduation eve is a promising setup for a dark night of the soul, yet “Guided Consideration of a Lamentable Deed” offers nothing more than a dark night. Frank Basloe’s journey through Bret Easton Ellis country trafficks in skin-deep cynicism, and Dylan Southard’s Needtheater production nibbles at a nightmare’s edges instead of chomping down on it whole.White-bread Tim (Ben Kurland) celebrates tomorrow’s diploma by having carnal knowledge of a unconscious co-ed tonight, followed by a dazed and confused campus odyssey to make sense of it all. Friends and strangers, all struggling with their own psychosexual dilemmas, are enlisted to sort out the meaning and consequences of the “lamentable deed,” although a freshman at orientation could instantly identify the act as rape and direct Tim on how to do the right thing. Perhaps this monumentally obtuse Candide is meant to satirize moral blind spots, undergraduate division. But no irony is present in Kurland’s clueless oaf, who holds the same pained expression through everyone else’s complaints while waiting to regain the center of attention. A perky, omniscient Guide (Mattie Hawkinson) provides a window into others’ inner thoughts, and given Tim’s unreadable mug that’s almost a necessity. But her interjections erode the immediacy, and Hawkinson can’t seem to get her mouth comfortably around Basloe’s self-conscious prose. (She describes a dude chugging a bagged 40-ounce like so: “He finds its sapidity comparable to the lukewarm malted fluids he’s consumed from smaller vessels.”) Instead of setting the troupe of 17 to create a collegiate environment alive with late-night desire, helmer Southard treats them like a scene study class. Thesps are trotted out in pairs and trios while furniture moves in and out of the massive 30-by-30-foot space during clunky blackouts. Some of the material is shocking, but no more shocking than the staging’s conventionality. Typical of evenings involving underused performers, the cast divides itself into those fully present in the situation vs. those by-God determined to make the most of their 10 minutes in the limelight. Among the former are the laudable Rachel Germaine as a track star fretfully in training during everyone else’s bacchanal, and excellent Edward Kiniry-Ostro and Terence Leclere as Hasidic stoners, gleefully consulting Talmud to advise Tim between hits of weed.
Cafe Club Fais Do-Do, Los Angeles; 63 seats; $20 top
A Needtheater presentation of a play in two acts by Frank Basloe. Directed by Dylan Southard. Sets and lighting, Chris Covics; costumes, Mo Stone; sound, Corwin Evans. Opened, reviewed Aug. 26, 2011. Runs through Oct. 15. Running time: 2 HOURS.
With: Bridgette Campbell, Aubrey Chantelle, Ronald Conner, Johnny Dinan, Abigail Eiland, Ian Forester, Jayk Gallagher, Rachel Germaine, Mattie Hawkinson, Sheila Karls, Edward Kiniry-Ostro, Ben Kurland, Terence Leclere, Isabelle Ortega, Kiff Scholl, J.B. Waterman, Jesse Weinberg.