Howard Korder tapped into a maelstrom of nerve-stretching desperation with his take on psychobabble and capitalism in the guise of his play Search and Destroy, but his 1970s triumvirate of boy/men in Boys' Life faces an uphill battle for our attention. The playwright has chosen his types well: Jack (Ron Cohen) is the smug, acidly amusing aggressor, Don (Michael Artura) an angst-ridden second-guesser, and Phil (Nathan Gross) a spacey panda bear, neither bright nor motivated, but all heart. Korder tends here to jump from scene to scene without resolutions, although he gains his share of guffaws from these three kings of commitment phobia in jousting with the fairer sex.
Karen (Kelley Morrow) tells Phil she's miserable, to which he responds, in puppy-dog fashion, "I know. That's why I feel close to you." Jack, married with a child he calls his "ward," puts the make on Central Park jogger Maggie (Monique Vasquez), and Don winds up with Lisa (Gina Mandala), a waitress who fancies herself an artist. The best interaction, however, is Don's brief affair with a nutcase extraordinare (Alison Quinn), who terrifies him with apocryphal stories, like her incestuous father putting her in a sack and trying to run her over with a steamroller. By the end, when Korder briefly introduces Jack's wife, Carla (Jackie Schell), at the wedding of Don and Lisa, we are left feeling stood up at the theatrical altar.
Not only does the piece meander but director Lydia Weiss also never captures a rhythm, exacerbating that with clumsy scene changes and stodgy blocking, and her cast is simply not up to the task at hand, with the welcome exception of Gross, always endearing. The women come off as merely cranky or put-upon, and Cohen's mumbled diction and lackluster energy are particularly damaging, as his character is intended as a catalyst for his equally wayward buddies.
"Boys' Life," presented by Theatre 2000 at the Secret Rose Theatre, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hollywood. Sun. 7 p.m., Mon. 7:30 p.m. Feb. 11-Mar. 26. $10. (818) 623-6682.