at the Road Theatre
Dirk Gently (Scot Burklin) refers to his detective agency as "holistic" because he believes in the fundamental interconnectedness of things. Jeff Griffith, director of this disjointed effort, is clearly not of the same mind. This almost-fascinatingly pace-free effort flows—no, "flows" isn't the word—tumbles from the pens of Arvind Ethan David and James Goss, who for some reason thought that Douglas Adams' (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) source material, a metaphysical gumshoe satire packed with whimsy, digression, and quantum physics, would somehow breathe on a stage. To his credit, Griffith has marshaled impressive resources to keep the patient this side of a DNR. The digital contributions of Tye Beeby are praiseworthy. His rendering of the cooling Earth and the alien ship that crashes there (I can't even begin to explain) sets a standard for theatre of this size, as do the many slides and video clips that enrich the production. Dave B. Marling and Lee Osteen layer on a sound design that at first thrills with its resonance, later mistimed cues notwithstanding. This may not be Desma Murphy's finest moment as set designer; but considering the ground she was expected to cover, she gave Beeby a highly workable canvas. In its design, the show is remarkable if not flawless.
But oh, those performances and the dodgy British accents that hinder them. There is a general competence to the undertaking, but that hardly makes it worth watching. Burklin makes the occasional feint at charm but never commits. As the person who needs to anchor a story that ultimately concerns itself with the very existence of mankind, he must get the audience to invest in the character. Ten minutes in, the audience has checked out. Tripp Pickell almost succeeds as the baffled male ingénue (if software programmers can be considered ingénues) and he admirably soldiers through lines such as, "Can you reverse the neutrino flow to the flux capacitator?" without collapsing in utter defeat. There's British eccentricity aplenty, such as when Professor Regius Chronotis (Carl J. Johnson, doing a creditable Joan Plowright) advises, "Hold your [tea] cups rather firmly!" as they go ripping through the space-time continuum; but sadly, the most effective manifestation of time-warping this production achieves is its ability to convince the audience that the damned thing might never end.
Presented by and at The Road Theatre Company, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. Thu.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. Sep. 29-Dec. 2. (866) 811-4111.
Reviewed by Wenzel Jones