We know there are millions of stories in the naked city, and with an average of 4.5 million riders a day, it's safe to assume that most of these stories can be found on the subway. Considering the fertile ground for exploration and the obvious relation to the similarly named classic film, one would hope for a richer result than what is offered in this production.
As written by Sy Rosen, the play—which runs less than an hour—is reminiscent of a movie adapted from a Saturday Night Live sketch that wasn't funny to begin with. It is not so much the "dark, edgy" exploration of the pervasive nature of violence in our culture that it purports to be but rather a platform for Rosen's slipshod collection of vaguely comedic concepts. The characters are a coterie of two-dimensional stereotypes, many of them adding nothing to the almost nonexistent plot. Indeed the only discernible story centers on an excessively long diatribe on serial killers, as silly as it is unsurprising. There is one interesting discourse on race, but in general the text offers no greater revelations than "Ketchup's a great product name."
The actors should be credited for their enthusiasm and would perhaps fare better given more-fleshed-out characters and text. As the sole promulgator of the action, Scott Brady manages to make affable the annoying ad man Raskin, and Steve Ferguson is solid as Raskin's reluctant conversation partner, though he loses credibility in a forced dramatic moment. The other marginal roles are played with questionable accents and a measure of discomfort, although Vincent Angelo is an engaging transient, inexplicably named Sister Margaret. Ben Kenber and Walter A. Lutz Jr. also exonerate themselves in their unfortunately small and seemingly unnecessary roles.
Other missteps include Clare Meehan's set, littered with realistic advertisements that tend to pull focus from the action and furnished with cardboard characters, some of which are broken. Admittedly, the mechanized masturbator is amusing—don't ask—but there is certainly cause for concern when a set piece becomes the most interesting character onstage.
Presented by 3KO Broadway Theatre Company at Theatre Unlimited, 10943 Camarillo Ave., North Hollywood. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. (Nov. 5 and Dec. 3 only) Nov. 4-Dec. 3. (818) 685-9939.