The Gravity of Means
From its unprepossessing location on a block whose lone sign of nighttime commerce is a
corner McDonald's, the MCC has seeded numerous original and noteworthy productions. Nixon's
Nixon, last year's MCC hit comedy drama made it closer to Broadway with a move to
the Westside's downstairs stage. This season's new offering The Gravity of
Means, is again a comedy drama. While not quite ready for prime time, John
Kovenbach's work is well worth checking out. He marches in the footsteps of writers like Pinter
and Mamet, but in his funny lines especially, speaks in a voice all his own. The brisk direction of
Russ Jolly and sharp performances of the four member cast do much to offset the play's flaws.
The drama revolves around three best buddies. Peter (Chris Eigeman), is rich enough to give
financial as well as moral support to his friend Alan, (Christopher Collett), whose writer's block
prevents him from finishing his novel. "I'm a wood carving" he states folornly, even as Peter,
insistently upbeat, cheers him on. Peter also nurtures Marty, (Lenny Venito), whose insecurities
about being a carpenter make him suspect Alan of looking down on him. When we first meet
him, he has stopped speaking to Alan except through Peter and declares that Alan is "in danger of
a permanent vocal boycott."
And then there's the girl who serves as the dramatic catalyst to puncture the bubble encasing the friends'
relationships. Her name is Judy and as acted by Susan Floyd, the stage really comes alive when
she makes her appearance in Act 1, scene 4. She and Peter get off to an immediate bad start
when he arrives an hour late for their blind date. She cuts through his excuses with unmerciful
disdain but is apparently persuaded to meet him again since the next and best scene turns into a
hilarious and explosive dinner in Peter's apartment--with Alan enlisted as the waiter and Marty as
the chef. Judy, stunning in a lavender pants dress, is properly charmed--though not by Peter but
by his friends, particularly Marty.
So much for act one. Unfortunately act two switches gears completely. The comedy becomes a
muddled and much more strictly serious proposition with a less-than-satisfying end. In the final analysis the play does not add up to
the sum of its best parts. Russell Parkman, the set designer, manages to suggest several settings by unobtrusively moving some simple props on and off the small stage. The red velvet walls are somewhat troubling since they do little to establish a sense
of who the characters are or what it's all about.
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