There is a moment in this supposed four-person comedy when cheated-on housewife Jane (Laura Rogers) likens sex to lemonade, “a naturally bitter drink until you add the sugar of romance.” Michael T. Folie’s woefully inept menage a quatre sex farce won’t quench anyone’s thirst. The playwright scans the breadth of human relationships from A to not quite B in this tissue-thin perusal of the mating habits of four monumentally callow L.A. yuppies, portrayed by Rogers (HBO’s “Indiscreet”), Heather Tom (“The Young and the Restless”), Hugh O’Gorman (AMC’s “Remember Wenn”) and Maxwell Caulfield (“The Colby’s”). This competent ensemble, aided by director Sean Alquist, generally keeps the action moving along but they are thoroughly whipped by the material.
Though upscale PR exec Carl (Caulfield) and his successful vitamin pusher best friend Jim (O’Gorman) ostensibly have gone through all the empowerment and social awareness training money can by, their idea of being in touch with their “feminist side” is to sit at an outdoor café and rate the parade of passing women on how much they would pay each lady to sleep with them. Egomaniacal Carl is enjoying the comforts of having comely wife Jane at home with their newborn daughter while dallying with Jane’s best friend Betsy (Tom). However, Carl’s well-ordered amoral social life is thrown asunder when Jane inadvertently fixes Jim up with Betsy. The latter two don’t mind hopping into bed together but each has decided to use the other to accomplish their ultimate objective. Jim wants Jane (he rates her at $1,000) and Betsy wants Carl.
There is decidedly nothing romantic happening in all these shenanigans. Even the potentially wholesome friendship developing between Jim and Betsy is short-changed by Jim’s eventual conquest of Jane and the enlightened decision amongst this quartet to establish a new social order wherein everybody gets everybody and let the babies fall where they may.
Of course, shallowness of plot is not what makes all this nonsense untenable. There is nothing funny happening here. These characters aren’t even faintly humorous. Caulfield plays the strutting rooster quite well but he can’t make plausible the nonsense coming out of Carl’s mouth. O’Gorman exudes an appealing, understated masculinity as Jim but is also defeated by the dialogue. His oft repeated, “I’m better the second time,” is not much of a laugh getter. The low point in this yawner has to be the mock martial arts battle between the two guys that aims for slapstick comedy but misses badly.
The women fare better but not by much. Rogers is quite appealing as the introspective, art-loving Jane who is drawn to Jim’s gentle attentativeness to her. And Tom exudes a sultry vitality as a career woman who is really ready to settle down. Both these ladies deserve better than the incomprehensible dialogue they are forced to utter. Their eventual decision on how to achieve domestic tranquillity is as arbitrary as it is totally unbelievable.
The proceedings are not helped by Chris Smith’s clumsy-looking all-purpose setting, the ineffectual lighting of J. Kent Insasy or the inconsistent sound design of Skott Jongeneel. On the plus side, the costumes of Tish McManigill are quite attractive.