Dirty Laundry

Producer James Esposito has asked reviewers not to mention two specific details involving plot and character in George Albertella's new farce. The first item seems negligible, as the play reveals it within 10 minutes and one can instantly see it coming anyway. The second, which arrives near the end of the play, is more unexpected and belatedly generates some solid laughs. One wishes that Esposito, Albertella, and director Steven Benson had been equally concerned about things such as story focus, tonal consistency, and weeding out dumb jokes. Moreover it's absolutely mind-boggling that no one was able to guide the overwrought efforts of one actor toward more palatable results.

The plot--minus embargoed data--concerns a Jewish couple (Marc Ian Sklar and Lee Anne Moore) and the sudden crisis that develops when the husband, Stan, must explain a situation in which he and a customer in his laundry shop ended up naked. Egging things on is Stan's wisecracking Muslim assistant, Ari (Ruben Dario). It appears that Albertella intended some sort of satiric commentary on repressed sexuality and all the ramifications thereof--sort of a closeted La Ronde. But he weaves a mighty tangled web in arraying his points. Caught in that web is the meandering narrative, which encompasses multiple instances of people lusting after others, with many of these attractions defying all logic. Along the way we get offensive gags, such as one in which the wife places homosexuality below bestiality on the perversion scale, and Ari's asinine malapropisms, like "bi-sectional," that aren't any funnier on the 10th utterance than on the first.

Which brings us to that clueless performance: Presumably Albertella envisioned Ari as a dumb-like-a-fox sidekick character, straight out of the realm of sitcoms. What Dario has put into the role seems more like something from outer space. There's a bit of Pee Wee Herman, a trace of Betty Boop, and a smidgen of Donald Duck in his repetitious handful of facial expressions and body tics--eyes that bug out on cue, lips that pucker out in boop-oop-a-doop fashion, and other varieties of mugging. Accompanying these bizarre mannerisms is a dialect that resembles nothing we've ever heard and that fades in and out like clockwork. The other actors demonstrate a level of skill that suggests they would be effective with a genuinely funny script. Paul Luongo generates a few good yuks in a role we are forbidden to describe. Production values are solid, to the credit of the debuting Chromolume Theatre Company. As for the group's choice of premiere material, the playbill informs us that this is not just a comedy, but "a hilarious comedy." Who are we to argue?