Regional Reviews: Los Angeles
Live From New York
The characters who inhabit Joe D'Aquino's Live From New York are the sort of New Yorkers who give New York a bad name. They pull out chairs from underneath each other, use marital infidelity as a weapon, and think, "Are you the pitcher or the catcher?" is a good ice-breaker to ask a gay man. They are rude, crude, selfish, deeply unlikeable individuals -- and that's not including the hired killers or the woman in the straitjacket. If Live From New York really represents the "New York sensibility" (as the program proclaims), then it is a wonderful advertisement for Los Angeles.
Not only are the characters in D'Aquino's four short plays unsympathetic, they are also implausible. D'Aquino creates Larry, a therapist who thinks the best way to help his best friend's marriage is to convince his friend's wife she is still sexually desirable by seducing her himself. And because his friend, in a moment of self-doubt, questioned his own sexuality, Larry kisses him on the lips and believes his friend is conclusively proven to be straight when he does not become sexually aroused. That a friend would do these things is difficult to believe; that a friend who is also a therapist would do so is outright ridiculous.
The other mental health professional in the show, a psychiatrist named Rosemary, does not come off much better. We first meet Rosemary when she is flying back to New York because her sister has been institutionalized. The sister's ex-husband, who is escorting Rosemary back, refuses to tell her exactly what is wrong with her sister, so she decides to read definitions out of a diagnostic manual and ask him if they describe the patient. Setting aside the fact that one would hope a psychiatrist would have better techniques at her disposal for making someone talk, Rosemary's professional abilities are seriously in doubt if she has to look up the symptomologies of common mental disorders. And when it turns out that Rosemary's sister has exhibited the same behaviors since they were children, the question arises as to why Rosemary had to consult the diagnostic manual at all -- she should have known exactly what was wrong all along.
Were these the only incompetent characters in the four plays, one might think D'Aquino just had something against the mental health industry, but they are not. Other characters in the show are equally clueless -- Larry can only seduce his best friend's wife if she is stupid enough to fall for it -- leading to the ultimate conclusion that D'Aquino's playwriting is simply sloppy, needing wholly improbable characters to drive the plots along.
The sloppy writing is, in places, accompanied by sloppy direction. When Rosemary is sitting on the airplane, we are told she is sitting in a window seat, but she keeps her psychiatry text in a bag that has been stowed between her seat and the window next to her, rather than underneath the seat in front of her. (Of course, she is not acting as though there is a seat in front of her, given the way she crosses her legs with reckless abandon.) There is also some sloppy work in the costuming, but as there is no credit for costumes in this show, it is difficult to know who is responsible for dressing another woman in a short black skirt with black panty hose and open-toed sandals that irritatingly flap with every step she takes.
A few of the performers put in work that elevates this material into moments of believability. Robert Miano plays Mike, the man who has the misfortune to be cuckolded by his own therapist. His scenes with Brian Burke's Larry are the best part of the show, as the two of them exchange realistic "guy" dialogue in Mike's honest attempt find a way to save his marriage. Alex Peabody, as a gay prostitute hired by Larry (don't ask) also has his moments, particularly in his genuine reactions when Larry explains how he has mistreated Mike. But other than this handful of well-acted moments, Live From New York has little to recommend it.
An Emerge Arts Projects, Inc. production, Live From New York, four one-act plays by Joseph D'Aquino. Associate Producer Jay Howarth; Set Designer Victoria Profitt; Lighting Designer Peter Parkin; Sound Designer David B. Marling.
By The Short Hairs
Three Of A Kind
Live From New York plays at the Third Street Theatre in Hollywood through August 25, 2002, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 7:00 p.m. For info, call 323-960-4441.