Squiggy (Josh Breslow) has started hearing the voice of his goldfish Goldie (Eric C. Bailey), his therapist is chasing him with a hypodermic needle, and a cop has started threatening him with a club. But even as playwright Lenny Schwartz tosses jokes at the wall hoping they'll stick (few do), he's also writing a much darker subplot that eventually replaces his strained attempts at humor. Struggling with his abusive father's suicide, Squiggy finds relief in his cruel fiancée's insults and by taking a knife to his own flesh. But a sweet and insecure pet-store clerk named Blossom (a superb Elyse Ault) offers Squiggy a chance for both redemption and happiness.
For most of the first act, farce and edgy drama co-exist uneasily in director Michael Roderick's production, with painful memories leading into equally painful stabs at humor. But Breslow and Ault are such charming, likable performers that we hold on to them, even in the face of total confusion caused by Roderick's inability to differentiate between the past, present, and fantasy. Our faith in them is eventually rewarded with two very moving and touching performances in the second act as Blossom and Squiggy embark on a tentative and melancholic romance. Breslow and Ault are so sweet and funny in their scenes together, and the play's ending so emotionally wrenching, we're forced to forgive even the most egregious earlier errors of Squiggy and company.
Presented by Theatre of the Small-Eyed Bear
at the WorkShop Theater, 312 W. 36th St., 4th floor, NYC.
May 15–30. Schedule varies.