Reviewed by Eric Grode
Presented by Tangent Theatre Company at the Sanford Meisner Theatre, 164 11th Ave., Sept. 8-24.
It's not impossible to create compelling drama out of the days and nights of average urban thirtysomethings. The more unexceptional the subject matter is, however, the more exceptional the writing needs to be. By covering such well-traveled, innocuous ground, Michael Rhodes' slice-of-romantic-life play "wanderers" sets an awfully high bar for itself, one that it doesn't come close to reaching.
The achingly familiar central characters, Paul (Rhodes) and Rose (the charming Heather Dilly), are both wary to head back into the dating scene after awkward breakups. They surround themselves with a motley collection of shrill-but-supportive roommates, helpful bartenders, and boorish pals. Despite the series of awful dates and emotional crises, audiences will have little trouble guessing who will end up with whom by the end.
Rhodes has a wry, hangdog acting style that suits the play well, and he gives himself and Caise Rode one fine scene, an alcohol-feuled talk on the meaning of marriage that meanders in and out of uncomfortable territory. Unfortunately, the rest of "wanderers" dips far too often into the trough of generic relationshipspeak. Characters refer to mental states as "places" on at least six occasions, and one character says "We're getting very real here" in the very first scene. The two leads face an all-too-predictable series of pitfalls on their way to romance, and director Keith Teller rarely coaxed the supporting characters into being anything more than stereotypes. The triple and quadruple casting also led to some real confusion—it took a glimpse at the program to confirm that the kindly bartender in one scene wasn't the same guy as the caddish ex-boyfriend in the next scene.
The occasional clever line and quirky portrayal may spark interest from time to time, but "wanderers" spends too much time on people you've seen too many times before. And you probably didn't find them all that interesting the first time around.
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