After School Special

The first rule of writing is, "Write what you know." With the two comedic one-act plays that make up After School Special, it's clear that Erick Christian Hanson has thoroughly mined his recent career as a college student at Sacred Heart University and his brief time in Hollywood before moving to New York. And while he may have accurately recounted a few occurrences and transfused them with political and social diatribes, Flow and Ransack fall well short of being original. Laugh lines are few and far between, and the earnest, spirited cast lacks any standout performances that might have lifted the material a notch in quality.

Directed by Taylor Ashbrook, Flow follows a group of students winding through a series of encounters while wandering the stacks of the Sacred Heart University library. Wendy (Tyler Kain) and Bobby (Mark Riley) are platonic friends--except that Bobby loves her. Wendy is dating Jack (Chris Rice), a jock who cares more about rugby than about her. Erik (Derek James), who writes for the school paper, once dated Wendy, and she still likes him. Hanson makes many references to Woody Allen, and his dialogue seems to emulate the movie veteran's. But Flow rambles without the power punch lines, the characters are flat, and a large segment about Hitler and Jews seems out of place. Ashbrook's directing is clunky. And only Riley seems at home as the nerdy wannabe boyfriend.

Ransack, directed by Josh Turner McGuire, is a one-note skit that wears thin through sheer repetition. Two struggling actors (Riley and Kelly Troy Howard) live with an equally unsuccessful writer (Michael Trotter) in the Valley. But on this fateful day, Howard's character, who got paid for doing a national commercial, is moving out and taking all of his stuff, which comprises every item in the place. Riley, who spends almost the entire skit running on a treadmill, again provides the only bits of humor as he poses in front of the mirror while jogging on the machine. And Hanson's script contains so much cursing that it soon becomes a distraction.

The 90-minute production provides momentary flashes of talent by the writer and some of the cast, but it's not enough.