The script and direction here offer the same ol' same ol', leaving it to the actors to roll up their cuffs and pan for the evening's nuggets of interest and originality. Boy meets girl and so forth via an Internet chat room in playwright Hindi Brooks' disappointingly platitudinous romantic comedy, and Howard Teichman's direction reveals only flashes of originality in this otherwise stagnant work. Granted there's comfort in knowing within the play's first minute where the story will go. And Brooks' use of intercut dialogue works well here among the characters, although it could be more crisply paced. But we're left longing for a less glib take on life and love than this work provides as it glosses over even the most comical side of human loneliness.
Widowed grandma Nora (Jacqueline Scott) fears her CPA granddaughter Terry (Maria Spassoff) will marry obnoxious Ira (Jeffrey Winner) and move her into an old-age home. Terry buys Nora a laptop and sets her up with an Internet connection. Nora reluctantly learns to log on, discovers a romance chat room, and meets a Romeo, which inspires her to become his Juliet, of course describing herself as Terry. Romeo, in reality the grandfather-aged Benny (Manny Kleinmuntz), describes himself as the good-guy young actor (Joshua Schulman) working in the Internet cafe whence Benny transmits his romantic e-correspondences.
The evening's greatest pleasure comes in watching Spassoff take her character out of cliche and her dialogue out of the expected. Finding a perfect balance between comedic and real in the fine traditions of romantic comediennes Carole Lombard through Amanda Peet, Spassoff stands firm as the lively sanity in the center of this mad maelstrom. Scott quickly establishes the quick-tempered, foul-mouthed granny, even tweezing some empathy for the old gal. Kleinmuntz is a gem, unforced and unfussy and yet seeming to enjoy every second of his character. Schulman likewise takes the most direct and therefore most effective approach in creating a gentle, warm-hearted actor not at all resentful of his day job sweeping and delivering.
Only Winner, apparently eager to inject much-needed energy into his role, catapults himself into another play entirely, more commedia than comedy, portraying the health-addicted exercise fiend Ira wearing a rather revolting braided black wig, exposing a body that begs for exercise. Sound design by Michael Andreas helps root the production in quality and gets one of the evening's most genuine laughs with that annoying dial-up-connection squeal.