Deceit

Scripter-helmer Bruce Kimmel, who first gained acclaim for the cult pic, "The First Nudie Musical," has fashioned a ponderous, convoluted sojourn into the lethal machinations of three Gotham-dwelling sociopaths that falls short in its efforts as a comedy-tinged suspense thriller.

With:
Michael - Matthew Ashford Kate - Tammy Minoff Jeffrey - Greg Albanese

Scripter-helmer Bruce Kimmel, who first gained acclaim for the cult pic, “The First Nudie Musical,” has fashioned a ponderous, convoluted sojourn into the lethal machinations of three Gotham-dwelling sociopaths that falls short in its efforts as a comedy-tinged suspense thriller.

Kimmel’s potentially clever premise — revolving around the intertwining agendas of nubile young widow Kate (Tammy Minoff), her geekish, deceased husband Jeffrey (Greg Albanese) and hubby’s best friend, the ultra- suave Michael (Matthew Ashford) — is weighed down by an abundance of expository dialogue and heavy-handed stage business, further undermined by an ensemble that does not quite inhabit its individual characters.

The action is played out in Matt Scarpino’s evocative Upper West Side digs, complemented by the mood-enhancing lights of Craig Housenick. It is indeed a dark and stormy night, six months since the accidental boating death of Jeffrey, when Kate receives a visit from Michael, who has been living in England for the past 10 years. By way of the deceptively low-keyed but relentless Q&A of Michael, Kimmel spends most of the first act tediously rehashing the improbable courtship and marriage of the beauteous 24-year-old, not-so-bereaved Kate and the paunchy, balding and much older Jeffrey.

Much info is communicated but little action until Michael finally reveals the true purpose for his visit. What follows is an overly realized in-your-face physical assault that is certainly not suspenseful and far more horrific than thrilling. This renders the first act “surprise” ending more a relief than a revelation.

The second act shenanigans focus on the turn-the-tables antics of all three dubious protagonists, making judicious use of videotape to reveal a beyond-the-grave comeuppance to whoever is left standing by play’s end. Again, Kimmel bombards the proceedings with an abundance of back history-revealing dialogue. The only meaningful business that is played out in front of the audience is each character’s carefree lack of concern for human life.

Ashford (“Days of Our Lives”) is properly erudite but has not developed much character depth as the homicidal Michael. In a difficult role, Albanese has mastered his lines but little else, offering little credence to Jeffrey’s improbable ultimate decision. Minoff is simply lost in her efforts to be a literal femme fatale.

The multi-talented Kimmel has established his credentials in many areas of the industry, including co-scripting “The Faculty.” He needs to give “Deceit” a serious rethink and restructuring if it is to have legs to move beyond its current incarnation.

Deceit

El Portal Forum Theater, North Hollywood; 95 seats; $25 top

Production: A Kritzerland Theater Co. presentation of a play in two acts, written and directed by Bruce Kimmel.

Crew: Sets, Matt Scarpino; lights, Craig Housenick; costumes, Beth Morgan. Opened and reviewed on Jan. 13, 2006; runs until Feb. 19. Running time: 1 HOUR, 45 MIN.

Cast: Michael - Matthew Ashford Kate - Tammy Minoff Jeffrey - Greg Albanese

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