For his sixth show at the American Stage Co., playwright in residence Joe DiPietro has fashioned a fresh and amusing take on the subject of marriage and infidelity. The author of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” — now in its fifth year Off Broadway — and “Over the River and Through the Woods,” which recently concluded its own lengthy Off Broadway run, has again teamed with composer Jimmy Roberts. The resulting show is a giddy musical romp that definitely has a future.
Based on “Manner,” Doris Dorrie’s 1988 German pic, “Men” chronicles the plight of an affluent married couple who appear to be suffering a severe 15-year itch. Ad exec Tom Ambrose (Jordan Leeds) swiftly dumps his office tootsie when his wife, Lucy (Marylee Graffeo), confesses to an affair with struggling artist Sebastian (Tom Zemon), whose limited income appears to come from moonlighting as a hot dog vendor.
Tom takes an extended leave of absence from his high-powered job and moves into Sebastian’s tacky loft incognito (masquerading under the name Milo). He’s aiming to observe the relationship first-hand and thwart their secret trysts. The two men develop a warm bond, and the triangle becomes even more complex when Tom grooms Sebastian for a high-bucks art job in the ad biz.
DiPietro’s dialogue is tangy, crisp and often quite funny. When Tom confronts his wife concerning her lover’s prowess — “Is he good in bed?” — Lucy replies, “Who would have an affair with someone who was not good in bed?” His lyrics capably define the characters and describe their frustrations.
Roberts’ music, however, is repetitive. The tunes amble along amiably, but they don’t linger in the heart. Recalling a single melody or humming a few bars would be a stretch.
Leeds invests his character with a great deal of manic energy, hiding behind an ape mask (so that his wife won’t recognize him), sparring at the gym, hiding in park bushes, and cycling around the city in pursuit of his wife and his rival. Zemon, as the long-haired lothario and Fabio look-alike, exudes burly charm, and Graffeo is attractive and appealing as the pliable housewife, but her character is not as fully drawn as those of her male counterparts.
Larry Raben and Andrea Chamberlain play narrators and observers — oddly billed as “critics” — in addition to several other supporting characters. Raben is amusing as a grungy hotel clerk, while Chamberlain has some neat moments as both a palm-reading neighbor and Tom’s former no-nonsense mistress.
Joel Bishoff’s swift and pointed staging is set against panoramic city snaps, accented by minimal furnishings including a serviceable bookcase that spins into an appropriate office desk or the family Porsche.