Greg Suddeth's dark comedy explores the uncheery subjects of cancer and suicide, topics not usually handled with this much honesty, personal insight, and genuine humor. It was inspired, the program notes tell us, by a dinner at which everyone in attendance -- including Suddeth and his wife -- save one had a history of cancer. The result is an impressively acted and produced first pass, overflowing with clever dialogue and presenting an intelligent viewpoint about an unlikely subject for levity. What's needed now is for this promising work to focus itself and not ramble repetitiously.
Effectively played by Suddeth, Roy is convinced -- by the fluttering of angel's wings only he can hear -- that he and his old dog are meant to shuffle off their respective mortal coils that day. Roy's cancer is real enough, made worse by his secret refusal to agree to radiation or any drugs besides his jug of 7-Up and liquid morphine ("I didn't go to treatment," he admits. "I went to Starbucks"). But annoyingly, when all he wants to do is load his .22 and get a head-start for the pearly gates, Roy finds himself surrounded by ridiculously understanding survivors of the Big C, including his wife and his daughter (beautifully played by Wendy Phillips and Jenny Dare Paulin). Worse yet, these people genuinely love him -- something he has a hard time showing in return.
It's difficult not to wonder if Suddeth has the same problem displaying affection in real life, possibly explaining how much time is spent dealing with it in his play. Repetition is the culprit here in so many regards -- a tricky problem when all the action revolves, workshop-style, around a center-stage couch and the imminent suicide of Roy, a self-absorbed modern-day Willie Loman. Even considering the expert directorial choices of Cinda Jackson and Mark Adair-Rios and lovely performances all around, there's no place to go in Roy's world except into the same arguments, repeated over and again in basically the same way. Trim 20 minutes of whining, lose the unnecessary intermission, and this could become an important piece of theatrical literature.
Presented by and at the Lost Studio,
130 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.
Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. Jul. 13-Aug. 5.