Saturday, December 4, 2010

Personals Uncut: The New York Edition, Kennedy’s Theatre

(One of the 18 who are looking for love.)

We all know that cyber-personals, those online dating profiles, usually provide tiny nuggets of truth wrapped in fantasies and outright lies. That's why they all sound the same. This is understandable from the perspective of one who wants to hook up--hey, anything is fair in love and war--but it poses a problem for a play that attempts to wring chuckles and poignancy out of those ads, as does Personals Uncut: The New York Edition, now at Kennedy’s Theatre.

Written, directed and produced by Jennifer Griffin, a local woman who once lived and worked in Gotham, the show features a fairly diverse cast of 18. And that pretty much sums up the positive aspects of the evening.

These certainly appear to be good-hearted folks, and I am not particularly interested in clubbing baby seals to death. But let’s face it: obvious, repetitive and unfunny is no way to go through life, and it's an especially unfortunate approach for a supposedly comedic play.

With the exception of a couple tepid dialogue skits, each of the mostly disconnected and static blackout segments features a lovelorn person droning descriptions of themselves and their desires to the audience. Griffin’s writing, which occasionally has a glimmer of an amusing thought or a new perspective, is continually defeated by her determined parade of dating stereotypes.

Here comes the slob, the ditzy new-age gal, the dork in grandma’s basement, the gold-digger, the pot-head, the chilly intellectual bitch. And on and on. To make it even more clunky, this avalanche of familiarity is divided into two gender-specific acts, like Seventh Grade boys and girls on opposite sides of the gym at the annual dance. On the rare occasion when something unpredictable happens within a sketch, the turn isn’t supported believably in the script.

Also, there is little of the New York vibe, outside of the subtitle and some thrown-in location references. Shockingly, it seems that gays, lesbians, bisexuals and people of other more exotic dating interests don’t even exist in this bizzaro New York. Yes, one woman has a gal-crush on Rachel Ray (?), and one guy is interested in getting simultaneously and platonically naked with a female (gasp!). But everything else is standard-issue hets in heat.

Although a small handful of the performers exhibit some nascent acting chops, most of the people on stage have many scene studies ahead of them before they should attempt to again approach professional footlights.

Personals is apparently scheduled to have a longer run next year in the PlayhouseSquare complex. One can only hope that, by then, Ms. Griffin decides to divest herself of a couple of her production roles, chop away all the cookie-cutter characters, find more real actors, and focus on just a few hopeful daters with whom the audience could laugh and empathize.

Personals Uncut: The New York Edition

Through December 11, produced by Jennifer Griffin

at Kennedy’s Theatre, PlayhouseSquare,

!615 Eucild Avenue, 216-241-6000

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