Evening B of Showtime’s Act One festival has mixed results. Colorful writing and solid perfs give five new pieces an urban feel that reflects their gritty L.A. venue. But the hard edge, which co-producer Risa Bramon Garcia says she sought when picking these scripts from more than 2,000 submissions, only spottily delivers.
“Lynette at 3 a.m.” suffers from staging that’s too cute. Playwright Jane Anderson directs her own work here with a tiresome gimmick that wears thin quickly and, frankly, subverts the play.
The action mostly takes place in bed. Rather than playing the piece on a flat bed surface, which admittedly can be problematic for sight lines, Anderson places the mattress upright and lets the standing actors lean against it, simulating sleep.
Sure, a few belly laughs are generated in watching the human configurations wreak havoc with rules of gravity, but the one-note bit ultimately upstages. The play is ostensibly about a latenight fantasy of a bored housewife (Anne O’Sullivan). Whatever deeper depiction Anderson as playwright intended gets smothered in the bedsheets.
Rick Cleveland’s “Tom and Jerry,” a charcoal-black comic take on two hit men over the years, admits its debt to the 1964 Ronald Reagan classic “The Killers.” Tom (Sam McMurray) and Jerry (Bruce MacVittie) reveal their lives as efficiently as they dispatch a series of human targets, all played by Dan Castellaneta.
Cleveland’s writing is trenchant and funny, juxtaposing Tom’s and Jerry’s loving descriptions of their offstage family lives with their macabre profession. “Never never never never point the muzzle of a gun at your loved ones,” Tom advises.
The characters are intensely watchable and it is a pleasure to see Castellaneta and McMurray, both veterans of “The Tracey Ullman Show,” working together again.
Director Saul Rubinek keeps things lively with machine-gun pacing, but numerous scene changes, played within the action of the play, are a drawback.
James Ryan’s “Iron Tommy” spoofs the latest male-bonding sensitivity trend. A half-dozen men scream out “real” emotions in a session replete with African masks and bongo drums.
Though a weak-kneed plot emerges about guttural Wall Streeter Tommy (Vyto Ruginis) forced by his girlfriend to be there, the piece’s minimal character and plot development create more comic sketch than play. By the end, a still-stubborn Tommy is crying, but nobody really cares, including the audience.
Garry Williams’ “A Death in Bethany” offers little that is new or interesting in its story of a separated couple’s inability to deal with the husband’s father’s death. It’s yet another blue-collar factory-town drama about dealing with everyday problems.
Wil Calhoun’s “Call It Clover” closes the evening, echoing of Tennesee Williams with itsTurn to page 16