Not much hubris in this title, eh? The official printed script includes a screamer (!) at the end, but Little Lake Theatre Co. is happy to confine the exclamation points to one character in its current offering, A Masterpiece of Comic … Timing.
But what does an ellipsis signify? Strictly speaking, that something is missing. Oh, what temptation such punctuation presents to an unkind observer. Actually, though, the trouble here is as ironic as the play’s title. The problem with Robert Caisley’s 2015 comedy is that there’s too much, particularly in an overlong first act that can be difficult to recover from.
The Little Lake cast and director James Critchfield strive mightily. That first act is carried on the capable shoulders of Art DeConciliis as Jerry Cobb, a Broadway producer striving for the big time (i.e. Hollywood) with a new hit from a hot playwright. The foil for this exposition, stooge Charlie Bascher, doesn’t really develop a character (or sense of humor) until the second act. It doesn’t help that actor Jeff Johnston sports a bowtie and sweater vest in what is supposed to be Arizona in July with no air-conditioning. Cobb drips sweat and vituperation. Bascher is breezily, inexplicably immune.
Completing drama’s rule of three — or at least providing the third character — Danny “Nebraska” Jones, no longer a wunderkind writer, gloms and glooms onto the scene. Greg Caridi hunches into the dispirited role, catching fire (as does the play) in the next act. Providing the spark, sexually as well as comedically, is Jones’ ex-fiancée Nola Hart, shamelessly and effectively overplayed by Sara Barbisch.
Now the chuckles blossom, ripen and fill the stage. Much of the humor is derived from the more academic aspects of deconstructing theater. The first act mopes, the second tropes, and laughter conquers all.
The “luxury hotel” setting — complete with console TV and modish (if anachronistic) design touches — provides a pleasant background. Thanks, technical director Jared Pfennigwerth.
Give Little Lake credit for trying a new play, one that does have plenty of gags and topical humor, notable since it’s set in 1963. The problem is too much plot, the enemy of comedy — a view roundly endorsed by Cobb: “You take 100 jokes and put it in two acts, there’s your plot.” Physician, heal ….