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Nice Guys Finish...

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Presented by Apricot Sky Productions at the Sande Shurin Theatre, 311 W. 43 St., NYC, Sept. 29-Oct. 23.

A funny, acerbic comedy, Eric Alter's play "Nice Guys Finish…" depicts the singles life in a cynical, familiar way that might remind you of a sitcom.

The setup involves a blind date between two mainstream singles who meet at an Italian restaurant in Manhattan. Stevie, a bland, nebbishy type, has had little success with women. As a result, his friend Tommy urges him to be arrogant, offensive, even disturbing to his date. The theory, of course, is that women are best wooed by the bitterest of men. Tommy, a caricature of the "Guido" variety, is completely shameless, somewhat dim, but overwhelmingly confident, something Stevie is ineffably drawn to.

The date, the lovely Kimmy, ends up having an unusual number of habits and tics in common with Stevie, including an adoration of the singer Barry Manilow. Problem is, Stevie proceeds to deny all of his likes on his new theory that conflict is the seed of love. The date naturally turns out to be a disaster until Stevie decides to change course and "admit" his real "sweet" persona, to Kimmy's ultimate approval.

The play is basically split in two. There is the date, which is effectively written and mostly fun to watch, at least until the syrupy conclusion. Interspersed before and within the date scene are "advice" bits between Kimmy and her friends Sherrie and Jannie. These segments are less consistent, with diminished dramatic tension and sometimes obvious dialogue.

Director Rob Sullivan's cast looked comfortable and effective. Sullivan himself played Stevie fairly well despite mugging at times. Lauren L. Murray was elegant and charming as Kimmy. Philip Asta as Big Lou, Gina Marie Scott as Jannie, and Stephanie Angelil as Sherrie were clear and convincing. Most impressive was Rafael Zubizarreta, who fearlessly and thoroughly inhabited the vile Tommy.

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