BWW Reviews: Citilities Theatre's THE CRUMPLE ZONE Fails to Spark
Buddy Thomas takes the typical trappings of a romantic triangle and places them in a rundown New York apartment somewhere in Staten Island, with the twist here being that all the participants (in the triangle) are gay. The Crumple Zone certainly has some entertaining moments and a few memorable lines, but unfortunately, it fails to spark. Part of this is the play itself, which recycles the situation with little verve or panache, and part of it is due to a lackluster presentation that's just a little too loose in execution, despite a fairly sharp cast, to succeed. Citilities Theatre is currently producing this fairly recent work as part of a double night of theatre, with Songs from an Unmade Bed taking the stage about a half hour after the initial show ends. I didn't see it in that manner, but those who do will find the latter far more engaging.
Buck is in love with Alex, but Alex is married to Matt, who's on tour with a campy production of a musical version of Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot, which actually sounds like more fun than this show. In this case absence does not make the heart grow fonder, and Alex has fallen for Buck in a big way, even he tries to deny his feelings. Acting as a human "crumple zone" to buffer the inevitable crash of emotions that are certain to arrive is Terry, a love-starved friend who works hard to keep the peace while trying to convince Buck that he'd be better off with him. Of course, this all takes place around Christmas time and, predictably, Matt shows up at the end of the first act. The denouement is also pretty obvious, but there are some amusing moments shared along the way.
Troy Turnipseed is good as Buck, and he's reached a point where he's invited Alex to move in with him and share his life, but Alex (Seth Ward Pyatt) is generally unwilling to make the commitment until Matt (Antonio Rodriguez) shows up and it's clear that the magic is no longer there between them. Pyatt is a little tired and flat (perhaps due to his directing the second show in addition to starring in this one), and thus it's hard to imagine him as the object of desire for either Matt or Buck, but he tries hard and that counts for a lot here. Rodriguez suffers from an underdeveloped character that's spends too much time offstage to make a real impression. Keith Thompson is a firecracker as Terry, and he does his best to enliven the proceedings, even performing a game dance to "Nevertheless" (choreographed by Janet Strzelec) to try to entice the disinterested Buck. Devin Przygoda also appears as a married man that Terry picks up on the Staten Island ferry, but isn't really given much to do with yet another underwritten part.
Marsha Hollander Parker's direction is a bit lifeless, and the the show really doesn't take off the way it should, or could. There's good chemistry between these actors, but they just seem to be stepping on each other's lines rather than interacting in any sort of true farcical fashion. The old TV show Three's Company is brought up more than once, and it may not be fondly remembered by some, but at least it had a maniacal energy that glossed over the hackneyed scripts it offered up on a weekly basis. GP Hunsaker's set is a study in decay and disarray, and it fits the author's concept well. Steven Miller's lighting works well, and Alexandra Scibetta Quigley's costuming provides apt fits for the characters.
There certainly are some things to like about The Crumple Zone (especially Thompson's manic performance), but it needs to be tightened up considerably in order to fully engage. This production continues through July 24, 2011 at the Gaslight Theatre.