This contradiction serves as both fuel and speed bump for the puzzling Jack Goes Boating, the latest production of LAByrinth Theater Company, which is being presented at The Public Theaterís Martinson Hall. Bob Glaudiniís play dissects the advice, both helpful and otherwise, thatís passed among four friends in present-day New York much the way cold germs are spread in a cramped office: Feeling fine one moment and rotten the next is the order of the day. If only the play itself didnít operate in what frequently feels like a codeine-induced haze.
You canít do that in much less than an act. When stirred together with a surprising variety of water-related sex metaphors, which must be winkingly waded through before Jack can go ďboatingĒ (if you know what I mean!), youíve got a recipe for a blithe and leisurely summer evening at the theatre best preceded by a light dinner and even lighter drinks. What you donít have is a play that says much about the mixed-up nature of relationships, whether with friends or with lovers, that we havenít heard before. And the fun and humor Glaudiniís play provides, mostly in the first act, isnít quite robust enough to compensate.
This thin story never gets any additional meat on its bones. Ortiz and Rubin-Vega, despite valiant attempts (and frequent success) at injecting heat into their tenuous tÍte-ŗ-tÍtes, canít make Clyde and Lucy feel like more than misfiring catalysts in the machinery of the meandering tale of Jack and Connie. But even though Hoffman and Cole summon a palpable erotic connection in two surprising scenes set in Connieís bedroom, they usually register as two barely lost souls whoíve just forgotten to unfold their roadmaps.
Hints abound that Glaudini was interested in exploring more than just disconnection for its own sake. Jack is an appealingly enigmatic character, whose precise emotional motives remain mostly undeveloped, even as he comes ever closer to his goal, and requires an actor who can fill in the blanks. Hoffman, an Oscar winner for playing the titular troubled soul of Capote, gives an amusing if pointedly lethargic performance that makes few choices, veering so haphazardly between making Jack simpleminded and antisocial you might want to bring along a Dramamine. Cole finds a much more balanced sense of teetering in her on-the-brink character, making Connieís physical assault on the subway less a stray plot point than the keystone event of the emotional collapse Jack must steadily undo.
That gradual reconstruction often proves a joy. Unfortunately, all the other tarrying in propelling Jack from singledom to love-aholism does little to enrich the play, and the second actís descent into hedonism (taking in not only marijuana, in a misplaced tribute to Rastafarianism, but also the less-spiritual cocaine) spoils most of the goodwill the free-spirited first act engenders. (David Korinsís set, which moves effortlessly between Clyde and Lucyís apartment, Lucy and Connieís job, and a local swimming pool, sustains the proper fluidity throughout.)
With a more monogamous commitment to economy, the play could well prove as consistently sweet and funny as its best moments currently are. Right now, much of the excess rambling makes you want to ignore the destructive chit-chat and just follow where your heart leads. Thatís the not-so-hidden message that Glaudini and DuBois have tuned out a few too many times in Jack Goes Boating.
Jack Goes Boating