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A CurtainUp Review
At first blush it may seem that Goda has created a tantalizing drama. The lights come up on a fitness center in a posh hotel in New York City. A corporate executive named Martin Stone (Richard Masur) is walking on a treadmill and ex-con handyman Zeke Catchman (Hunter Foster) reads a newspaper at a nearby table. Things get prickly when the 60-ish Martin asks the 30-year-old Zeke to clean out an air vent that's clogged up with dust. Zeke, who feels that the task will compromise his integrity refuses to jump at Martin's request. A power struggle instantly ignites. Zeke gets fired from his service job by the incensed Martin, and the rest of the story becomes a ferocious tug-of-war between these two alpha males. Sure, there are other minor characters that get pulled into the fray, but the real imbroglio is between the mogul Martin and the street-smart Zeke.
Aside from the emotionally-gripping opener, the 7-character play (with 2 roles doubled) is rather clunky, and confusingly proceeds in a jig-saw puzzle fashion. The protean settings morph from the fitness center, to Zeke's small studio apartment, to Martin's apartment, and then back again to Zeke's studio.
Watching this play one is inundated with hectic scene changes which unfortunately works against the dramatic texture of the story. Granted, there's some meaty action punctuating the plot especially when a serious-looking gun appears in two highly-charged scenes which are sure to raise gooseflesh on your neck. But two hand guns don't make a thriller.
The evening is redeemed by the acting of the entire cast. Hunter Foster, well-known for his musical roles in Little Shop of Horrors and Urinetown, is well equipped to play the backsliding Zeke's attempt to regain his dignity after being fired. His down-at-heels character is the most likable one in the story, and Foster wisely doesn't play him with Hallmark sentimentality.
Still, it's very hard to warm to this play that has a chilly, pathological atmosphere hanging over most scenes, including the romantic ones. To wit: Zeke starts dating Martin's daughter Jenny, who he meets at a bar. Yet it's impossible to tell whether he.s sincerely interested in Jenny or merely exploiting her to gain a kind of revenge against her Dad. Jenny, with her sharp biting sarcasm toward both her Dad and Zeke only complicates the volatile situation further. Fortunately, Campbell has talent to spare, and makes her Jenny more substantial than she is. She is the gem that sparkles in front of the footlights.
It's a shame to see A-list actors chomping on lines that are cliché-laden and trite. Credit Scott Zigler's well-executed direction for keeping things moving along despite the play's less than engaging substance.