David Cale wrote, directs, and serves as solo performer in this charmingly eccentric play, which premiered last year at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre. Fond recollections of Woody Allen films surface while viewing this Manhattan-set comedy, as the minimalist staging—complete with projected titles and video images—resembles a finely textured art-house film. Furthermore, Allen is amusingly mentioned in Cale's quirky yet oddly touching script. Meanwhile, others might detect a touch of Lewis Gilbert's classic "Alfie" in this bittersweet tale of an impromptu gigolo. Yet Cale's dramatic voice and style are bracingly original, and this 90-minute fable of one man's unexpected adventures is entertaining and subtly thought-provoking.
The story shifts back and forth in time. Cale plays all parts, including the focal role of early-30s Irish carriage driver Kieren McGrath, who plies his trade in Central Park, led by a trusty palomino horse. Kieren is yearning to find a suitable topic for a book he wants to write, and he suddenly stumbles upon it. One day, a woman named Marsha catches a ride with Kieran and startles him with an unusual proposition—escort her widowed Australian friend Vallie to a social function, and then make sure the evening ends "in a nice time" for Vallie—in exchange for a hefty sum, of course. Hence, a stud is born.
Other characters include sexy young women named Trish and Ruby, and two men—a book publisher and his young companion—who help bring the play to a surprising yet satisfying resolution. Cale is a master at differentiating between the accents, genders, and physical characteristics of the people he is portraying. The character shifts are initially a little confusing, but the actor soon settles into rhythms that support the diverse moods. At that point, the unfolding story and the transitions begin to feel natural.
Tasteful design elements underline the crisp simplicity of the piece. Takeshi Kata's bare-bones set, Laura Bauer's costumes, Beverly Emmons' lighting, Andre Pluess' remarkable sound effects, and Jason H. Thompson's superb projections greatly enhance the experience.
Presented by Center Theatre Group at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City. May 13–June 6. Tue.–Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat. 2 and 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 and 6:30 p.m. (213) 628-2772. www.centertheatregroup.org.