Thursday, October 29, 2009

Embraceable Me (Theater Row)

Embraceable Me
Theater Row
October 26, 2009
Victor L. Cahn (writer)
Eric Parness (director)

It's a truism that goes all the way back to the Greeks: drama requires conflict. And yes, Embraceable Me has an overt conflict, a version of the When Harry Met Sally struggle to shift from friendship into romance. But the problem with this show is, the opposites-attract characters of Allison and Edward (the chemistry-free duo of Scott Barrow and Keira Naughton) are too amiable to strike sparks. They remark on (but don't wrestle with) job frustration and romantic disappointment. Does she drink too much? He may think so … or he may just be teasing. Did loveless parents screw him up? Perhaps, but it's vague. The script shies away from thorny emotions and discomfiting actions (though to be fair, so do the actors). When one finally does muster up enough bitterness to insult the other, she uses the limp epithet “icicle.” A scene of vicious rancor would've gone a long way, building momentum and enlivening the characters.

That, in turn, would've given the illusion of something at stake. As it is, I can't tell what drew the company to the script, or why Cahn felt compelled to write it. Certainly, no one seems inspired. Parness's direction consists of fussy blocking around Sarah Brown's cluttered set (I wish she'd jettisoned the bookcases to show off her cool chalk-drawn backdrop). The script, pointlessly structured mostly as direct address, undermines Barrow and Naughton's aimless performances by making them speak to the audience more than each other. Even at a intermissionless 70 minutes, Embraceable Me is gormless and dull.


Embraceable Me plays at Theater Row (410 W. 42nd Street, betw. Ninth & Tenth Ave.), closing on October 31. Tickets?

Photo credit: Jon Kandel

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