A 2006 New York Fringe Festival favorite, playwright Ashlin Halfnight's tale of an unlikely romantic triangle between a trio of Manhattan misfits might be more aptly titled Three Compelling Characters in Search of a Play. Which is not to say that director Neil H. Weiss' production doesn't pack its share of panache and charm. In fact, it's difficult to recall when a script so deeply flawed boasted such uniformly flawless and engaging performances. Graphic novelist Fulton (Philipp Karner)lives a Manichaean fantasy of his own making. His delusional dualism, in which people are either good or evil, is straight from the pages of the superhero comics with which he makes his living. Not surprisingly, his sole friend is his neighbor with Asperger's syndrome, Gordon (the marvelous Scotty Crowe), whose guilelessness and comically over-literal and inappropriate truth-telling sustains Fulton's black-and-white worldview. All that is upended when Fulton's high school dream girl, Dana (Carly Pope), steps out of his past and onto his doorstep fresh from a mugging, the details of which don't quite add up. Dismissing Gordon's Cassandra-like misgivings, Fulton plunges blindly into romance only to discover too late that his idealized damsel in distress is decidedly damaged goods. And though Fulton's characterization lacks the complex edges for the role of dramatic fulcrum assigned him, a superb cast, along with set designer Jeff McLaughlin's ingenious lights and Leeahd Goldberg's emblematic, shapeshifting posters, comes tantalizingly close to compensating for the manifold deficits of their text. SFS Theater, 5636 Melrose Ave., Hlywd.; Wed. & Sat., 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 14. (323) 960-5521 or divingnormal.com.
Wednesdays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: Oct. 20. Continues through Nov. 14, 2010