A New Play Says Aging Is Depressing. Thanks For the Tip

Tom Bower and Thaddeus Shafer in Off the King's RoadEXPAND
Tom Bower and Thaddeus Shafer in Off the King's Road
Ed Krieger

There's no nice way to say it: The new play Off the King's Road, now playing at the Odyssey Theatre in West L.A., is not very good.

The story follows Matt Browne (Tom Bower), a retiree who has come to London to recover from the death of his wife, Betty. His home for the sojourn is the titular hotel, manned by an overly obliging concierge (Michael Uribe), and home to Ellen (Casey Kramer), a stereotypical crazy cat lady. Much to the surprise of his therapist back in L.A. (Thaddeus Shafer), who recommends more conventional treatments (seeing movies, taking walks), Matt seeks carnal comfort, first from a blow-up doll, and then from a prostitute (Maria Zyrianova).

Such are the stock characters of Off the King's Road, but unfortunately, they're not given much to work with, plot-wise. Under Amy Madigan's direction, the two and a half hour show meanders, and the actors plod through the clunky dialogue, written by Neil Koenigsberg. 

But even if the actors were given a better script, it's not clear that the final product would be much better — most of the actors seem miscast. Bower's line delivery feels painfully stilted, while Uribe's affectations as the concierge are tonally mismatched to how the character is written. Kramer and Shafer do the best work, but they struggle to stay afloat, weighed down by their underdeveloped characters.  

Perplexingly, the lighting design (by Christina Schwinn) draws undue attention to itself with too many light cues, perhaps in an attempt to overcompensate for the lack of dramatic development. As the characters walk through the hallways and rooms of the hotel, the lights go up and down as they move from one area to another, a choice that becomes more distracting with every iteration.

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Joel Daavid's sets are realistic and versatile, but a hospitable-looking inn isn't enough to make Off the King's Road worth visiting.

Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West L.A.; through Aug 2. (323) 960-7712, plays411.com/kingsroad

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