Moon these children

Two Parties

By James Comtois
Directed by Pete Boisvert
Nosedive Productions
78th Street Theatre Lab
236 W. 78th Street (212/696-7342/
Equity showcase (closes Mar. 1)
Review by Doug DeVita

A group of twentysomethings, all drinking, all smoking, all cursing, take the stage in James Comtois's Two Parties and don't let go until every single cliché of youthful disillusionment has been spewed violently across the footlights.

Comtois takes a particularly dark view of life, and his ability to speak the patois of his generation is quite facile. He also hits on some universal truths as he tries to capture that seminal moment when youthful idealism crashes headlong into the reality of grown-up responsibility. The young Michael Weller caught this specific instant perfectly in his heartbreakingly elegant Moonchildren, a work to which Two Parties bears a shallow resemblance. But Two Parties does not appear to be so much a well-crafted play as a literal translation of an alcohol soaked evening during which self-conscious, superficial discoveries take on the importance of finding the Holy Grail. Nothing much really happens, characters drop like flies when their nominal storylines are done, and what is meant to be a surreal evening of startling truth comes across as little more than theatrical masturbation, especially as presented in Pete Boisvert's stylelessly raucous production. Only one performer emerged as an actor to be reckoned with: Dustin Sullivan created an appealing character out of virtually nothing but the sheer force of apparent natural talent and affable personality. Everyone else, especially the mismatched Wry Lachlan and Eve Sorel as Sullivan's parents, seemed tentative and ill-at-ease.

Production values were downright shoddy; from the dialog it could be assumed that the setting was an upper-middle-class home, but the ragged and worn red velvet chair on stage said otherwise, the costumes were as up-to-the-minute as anything from a discount clothing store can be, and the performers' hairstyles and makeup would not have been out of place on any current college campus (all accredited to Catherine Culbertson). There was no one credited with the lighting, which went on and off with cold efficiency. Arguably the most successful element of the evening was Josh Walden's flashy choreography for a couple of dream sequences; it was a pity that once again Sullivan was the only one on stage who could execute the steps with the ease and flair called for.

Maybe it's a generational thing, for the young audience of friends laughed and cheered at every curse, belch, and pseudo-revelation with the enthusiasm usually reserved for a gaggle of groupies. And it isn't that Comtois doesn't have something relevant to say. But he hasn't yet found the mature voice with which to say it with any relevance to anyone outside a certain circle. At least not in Two Parties anyway.

(Also featuring: Sharon Eisman; Greg Foro; Sabrina Gwynne Howells; Patrick Shearer.)

Box Score:

Writing: 0
Directing: 0
Acting: 1
Sets: 0
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2003 Doug DeVita