You've probably heard it a million times: Home is where the heart is. Working on the assumption that if anyone hasn't been overexposed to this timeworn-but-true adage it's New York twentysomethings, Anton Dudley has aimed his sweet but spare new play Getting Home squarely at them. If he hits that particular target, few onlookers need concern themselves with shrapnel.
Directed by David Schweizer with a pulsing, mod flair, the Second Stage Theatre Uptown production of Dudley's play, at the McGinn Cazale, is hyperactively determined to tap the infrequent-theatergoing hipster demographic. With a cast of attractive young actors, subject matter about finding yourself and love in the difficult city, and scenes detailing things like a streetside pickup and a steamy threeway, this play makes intimidatingly clear that no one with an actual or emotional age over 35 is needed at this particular party.
More discriminating youngsters, however, might find themselves frustrated by the sheer number of trendy tropes Dudley hauls out to support his cause: Hinduism, near-continuous violation of the fourth wall, numerous references to the absence of that fourth wall, and half a dozen funny voices employed more to demonstrate the actors' versatility than to create a full city with just three performers. This production is so determined to showcase the boundless inventiveness of its participants that it never allows open access to the heart.
But if the play is little more than 85 minutes of preening theatrical wheel-spinning, at least it's of the well-intentioned, stylish sort. Tristan (Brian Henderson), Jan (Marcy Harriell), and Nilesh (Manu Narayan) are a trio of young urbanites slowly coming to terms with their burgeoning emotional maturity, and Dudley has made them quirky and likable enough to sustain the pedestrian concerns that apparently occupy their entire waking lives.
Tristan opens himself up to a mysterious cab driver, who might prove the love of his life. Jan lets down her guard to enjoy a fling with both a longtime friend and a sexy Russian stranger. And Nilesh discovers his true feelings for his secret crush while explaining the mystical significance of an Indian artifact to a dim-witted friend. By the time it's over, they've all learned something and are on the road to their home, their happiness.
All that's missing are fresh ideas and exciting new methods of presenting them. Andrew Lieberman's set - equal parts Times Square, subway, and nightclub - captures the physical but not the spiritual essence of New York; Aaron Black's lights are heavy on tricks with innovations like black light and neon that give the production a zippy feel for 1978. If not for Schweizer's ripplingly wry staging, which transforms even slight turns of the head and waves of the hands into hilarious visual one-liners, Getting Home would feel rigidly retro.
But if that's what's in now, the target audience will adore it. They'll also go nuts for Harriell, Henderson, and Narayan, who have no trouble turning up the comic and carnal heat (that threesome is wild, if respectfully so) on the three central characters and the alter- and alter-alter-egos they sometimes embody. It's too bad that their portrayals seldom dig deeper than stereotypically affected voices - Tristan's is Gay and Jan's is Uptight Neurotic to match Narayan's more natural Indian - but even accomplished swimmers sometimes just want to wade.
For those still getting their feet wet - as theatregoers, in college, or just alone and lonely in New York for the first time - this all might be sufficient. The more experienced in all these areas usually leave home to get to the theater, already knowing the way back, and the strongest feeling they'll likely derive from Getting Home is one of "been there, done that."