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Gravity Shoes

Bunzel, who has achieved success on stage ("Delirious"), film ("Born to Be Wild") and television ("The Wonder Years"), certainly knows the territory and the paramount concern: Who has the rights and what rights do they have?

With:
Cast: Thomas Calabro (C.J.), Dan Gerrity (Phil), Richard Kind (Lou), Eamonn Roche (Vic), Elizabeth Reilly (Allison), Sam Shamshak (Monty). John Bunzel has set his new play in an upscale Manhattan high-rise law office that is merely camouflage: It is actually a blood-spattered arena where six success-maddened human pit bulls tear into one another over ownership of an enticingly marketable product, a hit play. Director Ron Link keeps the action brisk and punchy in this uneven but often hilarious tale of entrepreneurial wannabes trying to out double-deal one another. Results could be more satisfying if a couple of scenery-chomping performances were reined in.

Bunzel, who has achieved success on stage (“Delirious”), film (“Born to Be Wild”) and television (“The Wonder Years”), certainly knows the territory and the paramount concern: Who has the rights and what rights do they have?

C.J. (Thomas Calabro), a failed actor turned producer-director, has optioned an enigmatic play titled “Gravity Shoes,” written by hayseed Midwesterner Vic (Eamonn Roche). C.J. has convinced his doubtful brother Phil (Dan Gerrity), a tax attorney, to come aboard as producer when C.J. decides to direct the play. To finance the production, they enlist the support of their grossly vulgar but rich former high school chum Lou (Richard Kind).

Meanwhile, the monumentally insecure Vic has decided to shield himself behind vast amounts of alcohol and agent Allison (Elizabeth Reilly). Allison, in turn, puts her wits and her ample bosom to good use, seducing Phil while bringing in high-powered film producer Monty (Sam Shamshak) to outduel the C.J.-Phil-Lou combine.

The six-member cast is a mixed bag. Calabro (a series regular on “Melrose Place”) is touching and funny as the only combatant who truly believes in the artistic merit of the play. Gerrity is wonderfully comedic as the square brother who only wants to know one thing: What is the play about? And Reilly is powerfully effective as the aggressive deal maker who is literally crushed by the betrayal of her own client.

The true star of the show, though, is Shamshak as the worldly and thoroughly unscrupulous Monty. Shamshak’s Monty continually exudes the overpowering presence of a mildly amused adult toying with children.

On the minus side, Kind has a great sense of comic timing, but his sledgehammer approach to dialogue detracts mightily from the ensemble work established by his fellow actors. And Roche is embarrassingly excessive and unbelievable as the falling-down-drunk playwright.

Set designer Edward E. Haynes Jr. and lighting designer Kathi O’Donohue have created a believable Manhattan environment.

Gravity Shoes

Production: Gravity Shoes (Hudson Avenue Theatre; 99 seats; $ 18.50 top) Hudson Theatre Group, in association with Sunstone Entertainment, presents a play in two acts by John Bunzel. Directed by Ron Link. Executive producers, Gary Blumsack, Elizabeth Reilly; producers, Jack Stehlin, Bunzel; associate producer, Jeannine Welles.

Crew: Set, Edward E. Haynes Jr.; lighting, sound, Kathi O'Donohue; costumes, Florie Kamper-Bunzel. Opened May 31, 1996; reviewed June 9; runs through July 21 . Running time: 2 hours.

With: Cast: Thomas Calabro (C.J.), Dan Gerrity (Phil), Richard Kind (Lou), Eamonn Roche (Vic), Elizabeth Reilly (Allison), Sam Shamshak (Monty). John Bunzel has set his new play in an upscale Manhattan high-rise law office that is merely camouflage: It is actually a blood-spattered arena where six success-maddened human pit bulls tear into one another over ownership of an enticingly marketable product, a hit play. Director Ron Link keeps the action brisk and punchy in this uneven but often hilarious tale of entrepreneurial wannabes trying to out double-deal one another. Results could be more satisfying if a couple of scenery-chomping performances were reined in.

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