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A CurtainUp Review
By Elyse Sommer
John Patrick Shanley certainly knows how to turn out a script to appeal to large audiences. His screenplay for Moonstruck won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The Manhattan Theatre Club's production of Four Dogs and a Bone had enough satiric bite and had so many people in stitches that it led to a successful commercial run at the Lucille Lortel Theater as well as the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles. Other, less well-known plays by this prolific playwright and director have been produced on various stages. His latest plays, Missing Marissa and Kissing Christine are the season's opening bill of fare at Primary Stages. Unfortunately the twosome, re-titled Missing/Kissing fails to add up to a very substantial whole. The stylized, deadpan duo-logues also fail to stir up very much audience response.
Both of these one acters examine the real and often bizarre incidents in the lives of New Yorkers--specifically the playwright and his colleagues and friends. The first and shorter play, Missing Marissa, works better than the first. Two men have been involved with the same woman. One married her, the other became her lover. As the play opens Marissa is gone from both their lives and the two deserted lovers engage in a wrangle over their tangled relationships. Daniel Oreskes as Eli and Jake Weber as Terry do their best to invest this situation with humor and feeling. However, if a laugh meter had been installed in the theater on the night I was there, the register would have remained on the low end.
Unfortunately, things do not improve in the longer second play. Here the playwright zeroes in on a first date between a down-in-the-dumps married man and a straight-shooting proofreader in an "executive office tower" in Queens whose dreams of becoming a dancer ended when she literally fell into a hole. The Thai restaurant setting by Brad Stokes is nice enough and the cameo appearances of the server add an occasional bit of movement to what is otherwise a "talking heads" play. Overall, neither play has the incisive wit of other off-beat plays this adventurous company has showcased--(All in the Timing, is just one that comes to mind). Timing per se also brings to mind more mass media talk dramas that also center on the quirks that turn our daily lives into dramas. Jerry Seinfeld and his friends also make much of little, but their timing is impeccable, and they have lots of charisma, something in much shorter supply in Missing/Kissing.
These negatives notwithstanding, Shanley is an interesting playwright. And, as mentioned earlier, prolific--a full-length play, again with a rhythmic and catchy title (Psychopathia Sexualis also dated 1996, is scheduled to make its appearance at the Manhattan Theatre Club.--Reviewed by Elyse Sommer