Labor pains

Crunching Numbers

By Lynn Marie Macy
Directed by Sheldon Richman, David Scott, and Lynn Marie Macy
Distilled Spirits Theatre
341 W. 44th St. (330-1478)
Equity showcase (closes October 3)
Review by Adrienne Onofri

It's always good to see growth in the Off-Off-Broadway community,

and one can't help but admire the enthusiasm spewing from the Distilled

Spirits Theatre. In its first month of operations, the company is

producing five shows and holding weekly readings. Yet one might also

suspect that when a company is formed by a playwright and her significant

other, perhaps the critical process is neglected. At least that is the

impression left by Crunching Numbers, a compilation of one-acts written

by Distilled Spirits co-founder Lynn Marie Macy.

All three plays in Crunching Numbers cry out for rewrites. They

all have good ideas at the core, but the finished products ramble and

veer into cliches or just plain silliness. And the only thing these

"three related plays" (as they're promoted) have in common is a New York

City setting.

First up was Once in a Blue Moon, which is part film-noir spoof,

part baby-boomer nostalgia (theme songs and characters from old TV shows

are invoked repeatedly) and part Brooklyn stereotype (people with

surnames such as Marelli and Liebowitz talkin' like dis). It went on too

long and got improbably sentimental at the end, and its

self-consciousness about what it is satirizing is heavy-handed. One

character, for instance, announces during a monologue that she is making

a "direct audience address."

Crunching Numbers' middle piece, Twice Blessed, is a cliched and

reactionary tale of two best friends who went their separate ways after

college. One married her college sweetheart, is pregnant with her fourth

child, and spends her days canning tomatoes and cleaning up toys in

Wisconsin. The other is a Pepto Bismol-guzzling, cell phone-toting ad

executive in Manhattan who hasn't had a date in two years. Haven't we

gotten past the notion that these are the only two options for

women-neither of which provides any personal or sexual fulfillment? Macy

unleashes every offensive stereotype about "career gals" as well as

homemakers, the Midwest, and New York City. Worst of all, the conclusion

of the play comes down strongly on the side of, essentially, being

barefoot and pregnant.

In the closer, The Thrice Three Muses, an unemployed

actor-having experimented unsuccessfully with all the major

religions-invents his own: Bardism. There has got to be a better way to

honor Shakespeare, or to poke fun at the trendy obsession with

spirituality, than Macy manages with this meandering piece. Jeffrey Eiche

overdid it in the central role, imitating Kelsey "Frasier" Grammer

imitating a Shakespearean ham. The supporting characters are poorly

developed, and the focus lurches between comical (Charlie's crisis of

faith) and poignant (his relationship with his wife).

Like Distilled Spirits' busy performance schedule, Crunching

Numbers demonstrates tremendous ambition by the company. Praise is in

order for the detailed sets (Lighting Elves Inc. is credited with

"production design") and the hard-working cast. Jennifer Lynn Michael,

Annalisa Hill, Karen Eterovich, and Gabrielle Gibbs stand out as

appealing talents.

(Also featuring Eric Morace, Stephen Federbusch, Jennifer Lynne Marcal,

Janet E. Anderson, John Yearley, and Drew Zechman.)

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 2
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 1998 John Chatterton