Anatomy of a Slap

A small, awkward space impinges on optimal enjoyment of this collaborative effort compiled by eight writers, including director Luis Reyes. The premise – a sort of postmodern Noises Off – will appeal mostly to theater people. But there’s enough humor here to dispel one’s worst fears about plays within plays. The specifics don’t matter much for several reasons, among them the patchwork quality of this group effort, Reyes’ valiant but still crabbed direction of too many actors in a tiny space, and the show’s awkward opening and anticlimactic ending. What’s fun is the stuff in the middle, even if occasionally lame, as when the addled Kip (writer Tom Markley) almost gets his ass kicked by Roy (Guy Killum), a bitter actor on the descent, who mistakenly thinks Kip is mocking him. When Kip says he’s taken classes to become a screenwriter, Roy hears “street fighter.” Much more amusing is the scene in which vain actor Jason (Ben Fuller) is running lines with theater wannabe Shelby (Michael Datz), just as Jason’s girlfriend, Diane (Kahshanna Evans), confronts him about their relationship. As Jason tries to quell the angry Diane, Shelby keeps correcting him, underscoring just how many of Jason’s supposedly spontaneous protestations are essentially scripted. What doesn’t work is the framing device for all this — the tense relationship between Renee (Paula Vincent), who’s written the play within this play, and her mother, known to us only through Renee’s comments on a troublesome cell phone. Fridays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Starts: May 9. Continues through May 31, 2008


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