at the Eclectic Company
This play, by actor Tracy Meeker and director David Serpa, was written as a screenplay, but it works reasonably well on stage. And as a character study of very mixed-up people, it works very well indeed.
Mark (Drew Richards) makes a big show of being a lady-killer, but he never has sex with the prostitutes he so publicly patronizes—or with his longtime trophy girlfriend, Cynthia (Meeker). His interest seems to be in fellow salesman Peter (Jason Britt), whom he constantly belittles as a sissy or fag—but winds up stalking. When Peter claims he's being sexually harassed, Mark gets him fired. Meanwhile, lonely Cynthia takes up with another of Mark's co-workers, Ricky (Serpa), and finds herself pregnant with his child. To their surprise, Mark seems delighted to be given credit for the pregnancy. Ricky wants to marry Cynthia, but she's too hooked on Mark to give him up. It's an emotional rat's nest that can't end well.
The first half of the play rings true, as do the actors' performances. But something goes awry toward the end. It's partially a problem of focus: At first it seems that Cynthia and Ricky are equally important, but then sympathy shifts to Mark, and things get hazy. Peter, Cynthia, and Ricky are left hanging and unresolved.
Director Serpa has assembled a terrific cast and mounted a solid production. Richards' Mark is a portrait etched in acid, and Serpa and Britt are equally fine. But Meeker, though convincing in what she does, never makes Cynthia's motives fully clear. There's also much good work from a solid supporting cast.
In a sense all the characters are takers and taken. And the issues need clarifying if the piece is to prosper, as film or play. Who's the center of interest? Mark and Peter are given the final curtain call, so perhaps it's their story that wants to be told.
Presented by No Luck Joe Productions in association with and at the Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., North Hollywood. Fri.-Sun. 8 p.m. Jan. 5-Feb. 11. (818) 508-3003. www.eclecticcompanytheatre.org.
Reviewed by Neal Weaver