Tug of war

Even Steven

By Anthony Giunta
Directed by Mark Harborth
The Spiral Theatre Company
Raw Space
529 West 42nd Street (561-0251)
Equity showcase (closes May 3)
Review by Sourabh Chatt

Even Steven takes on the all-too-familiar story detailing the trials and tribulations of the guy caught between the woman he is about to marry and the one he let slip away. While playwright Anthony Giunta delivers a special play with believable characters and sharp, funny dialogue, this production suffered from sketchy direction and inconsistent acting.

Steven, out of work and with a broken leg, is torn between his fiancÈe, the nurturing yet predictable Sharon, and the woman he jilted five years ago, the difficult but beautiful Carol. However, Steven is quite the "player" and has never been all that faithful in any of his relationships. But alas - poor Steven's luck has run out. Carol, the sneaky sleuth that she is, is ready to blackmail Steve unless she is allowed to meet Sharon. What ensues is a hilarious evening where the two women go to great extremes to show their undying desire for the hero, and in turn everyone discovers a little more than they all had hoped for.

The biggest problem in this production centered on director Mark Harborth's casting of Jason Roth in the lead role of Steven. Despite Mr. Giunta's brilliant lines, Mr. Roth lacked the comic ability to deliver them and was just not funny. He failed to convey the vulnerability and the humor in his character, either by talking too fast or delivering the punchlines too quickly. Thankfully, Alisa Klein's Sharon stole the show and resurrected it. She, in her "Olive Oyl" voice, not only drew the biggest laughs but showed great depth in transforming from the unassuming victim to the strong woman who finally took control. Ms. Klein's energy also carried over to Heather Baker's Carol, who, despite seeming detached in the first half, shone beautifully in the second. The chemistry between the two women was marvelous and was especially evident in the scene with the "footrub," the "kiss" and the "slap," in that order. In addition, cleverly woven into the story was Kevin, Steven's "abused" and confused roommate, skillfully portrayed with a sense of "down-home" innocence by Kenneth Dine.

F.T. Ebb's set design of an Upper East Side apartment was ideal, perfectly configured to meet the demands of the text. The design brought out the humor during the times when Steven desperately needed to hide one of the women while entertaining the other. Wendy Range's lighting and Al Roach's costume design fit the show well. However, at certain times, the music was a little too loud and made it difficult to hear the actors.

Even Steven, despite its drawbacks, is an excellent contribution from a talented playwright and deserves to be seen.

Box Score:

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

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Copyright 1999 Sourabh Chatt