Is a man playfully bouncing a soccer ball off his girlfriend's head enough to sustain a 90-minute one-act with aspirations to being a thriller in the mode of Angel Street? Playwright Jeff Hollman seems to believe it is. In Hollman's Real Danger, this detail, and Ferdy's curious habit of finishing girlfriend Vicki's sentences, are all that might lead you to believe something is amiss in their relationship. Unfortunately, by the time Real Danger reaches its climax, the former element has been long forgotten and the couple's conversational pattern has become an accepted quirk.
The chief flaw in Hollman's play, in which Ferdy and Vicki entertain Edward, a college buddy from whom Ferdy has been estranged for five years, is that the characters spend a preponderance of their time talking about relatively trivial events from their pasts. Vicki, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated photographer, talks about a trip to the South American rainforest. The guys relive, tediously, highlights of their careers on the college soccer team. Real Danger becomes more interesting when they talk about what led to their estrangement and when Ferdy and Vicki describe the highly unusual way they met.
This latter story should set up Hollman's surprise ending, but despite director Paul Adams' best efforts to create tension, the production simply looks sloppy, as drinks are spilled and Ferdy and Vicki awkwardly entertain their guest, producing dishes from unlikely places amid the mismatched furniture selected by scenic designer Robert Monaco.
Eric Chase and Carol Monda do yeoman's work as the curious couple, and Monda does fascinate with Vicki's Amazon tale. Neither performer, though, is seen in his or her best light here. Ryan Duncan fares slightly better as the couple's hapless and charming guest, but his contributions ultimately are not enough to make Real Danger score its theatrical goal.
Presented by Emerging Artists Theatre at Theatre 5, 311 W. 43rd St., 5th floor, NYC. Feb. 10-March 4. Mon. and Tue., 7 p.m.; Fri., 9 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m. (212) 352-3101 or www.theatermania.com.