John DeVore's Nuts and Bolts has had what is probably one of the longest and most troubled gestation periods in recent Off-Off-Broadway history. Originally announced as The Meat Grinder Waltz, it was scheduled for a March opening at Thirteenth Street Rep. Citing production difficulties, it was withdrawn after only one performance, popping up a few months later with a new title (the current Nuts and Bolts) and a new director. After a few previews, this version also closed before officially opening, only to resurface in August (with the same title and yet another new director) to play a month of previews before finally opening on September 2. While most other theatre companies would have cut their losses and moved on long ago, Thirteenth Street Rep has to be commended for a certain dogged loyalty. And that loyalty has paid-off for, though the production is not the greatest thing since glow-in-the-dark cheese, it is never less than enjoyable, and far from the epic disaster that seemed inevitable.
DeVore's comic one acts offer a fractured world of sadistic receptionists, bloodthirsty interns, closet heterosexuals, and capitalistic storm troopers. While DeVore doesn't have any startling new insights into the never-ending parade of human relations, his twisted, misanthropic viewpoint is expounded in some very funny one-liners and venerable sit-com shtick that provoke laughter even as the points are slammed home with the familiar ring of recognizable truth. And if director R.J Tolan didn't quite mine the individual scenes for all of their potential drama, comedy, and emotion or provide an overall unifying tone, his production was hip, stylish and moved with lightning speed.
The performances of the ingratiating cast were at least energetic and committed, and in some cases outstanding. Lawrence Frank and Robb Paterson played the dueling interns with impeccable comic timing, Michael Whitney underplayed his several parts beautifully, and Jonathan Valuckas delighted in a variety of roles, particularly as an office drone defending his embezzlement of company funds to bankroll his earth-shattering invention: the aforementioned glow-in-the-dark cheese. Which, of course, didn't.
Well-chosen music and sound effects, along with effective lighting and simple costuming, gave an added polish to the purposefully spartan production design, making a virtue out of its barebones black-and-whiteness.
Although Nuts and Bolts is not the trenchant statement about end-of-the-millennium relationships it would like to be, it does have enough flair and wit to be a moderately entertaining evening and stands as a testament to the benevolent perseverance of the long-running Thirteenth Street Repertory Company.
(Also featuring Deborah DeCarlo, Yvonne Delano, Victor Mastroianni, Alexa Servididio, and R.J. Tolan. Set, costumes, lighting, and sound all uncredited.)
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Copyright 1999 Doug DeVita