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Lexi Star’s Privates Warehouse Theater – Next Door

Remaining Performances: Saturday, July 19 @ 2:00 PM Friday, July 25 @ 6:00 PM Sunday, July 27 @ Noon

They say: “A new play about a suicidal man and the porn starlet that stands in the way of him offing himself. This dark comedy explores how when strangers meet and connect, their lives can be changed forever.”

Brett’s take: It is hard to write a play. Things don’t even have to go wrong; they just have to be not quite enough, just a little under- or overcooked. What author (and NYU MFA Playwriting alumnus) Malcom Pelles has here is a play that clearly shows some serious script-cooking. Jokes turn on carefully established character traits; secrets are revealed in a measured, intelligent way; the characters benefit from Pelles caring about them as human beings. …But. The play just isn’t done.

The plot concerns a meeting between unproduced screenwriter and all-around nebbishy guy Bradley (Edward Daniels does a good job of playing against his muscular physical type, if a bit lax when things get heavy) and a porn star named Lexi Star (Mikhel Wirtanen does everything she can, and does it well – expect good things from her). They meet at a motel room for a “private” – a.k.a. sex for money, which apparently many porn stars do to nab an extra buck from their fans.

Actually, the first thing we see is Bradley stick a gun to his head, seemingly suicidal, as Lexi sleeps; then we appear to flashback to his arrival at the motel. As porn star and client bide their time waiting for Bradley’s, ahem, readiness to, ahem, kick in, they start a-talkin’ and soon enough all sorts of character development is happening. Pelles does a good job of weaving between storyline, left-field humor (“What do you mean, ‘Indian’ Kama Sutra? As if there’s a competing New Jersey version?”), and surprisingly detailed background on the porn industry.

However, in the end, something just doesn’t come together. Perhaps a clue is in an exchange near the climax: as one character goes on a tirade, the other says, “Why are you saying this?” I was thinking the same thing. The rampaging character had no understandable motivation for that particular outburst. At times, both Bradley and Lexi act in certain ways because the playwright needed them to, in order for the other character to have some sort of revelation.

It might sound academic, but considering the occasionally perplexed reactions (and, at times, derisive laughter) of the full house I attended with, certainly there is a real consequence of the slackness in the writing. The play slowly degraded; the very funny and promising first act gave way to the more dramatic second, where our understanding of the character’s wants and needs was crucial to our engagement, and we instead were forced to jump over increasingly large potholes, all the way up to the utterly dropout ending (after which it took us a second to realize it was time to applaud).

Honestly, an even better production could have milked out more of the script’s darker depths of existential angst (no, seriously). Perhaps blame New Galaxy Entertainment, the company presenting this play, since they think they’re making films instead of plays; if their name wasn’t a giveaway, the movie-style preshow announcement (complete with the THX warm-up sound) and hyped-up curtain call reveal their misguided conception. It’d be great to see this one remounted, with a bit of rewriting and fleshing out and a little more oomph, by someone else; but unfortunately that seems unlikely, since playwright Pelles is one of the producers at New Galaxy.

See it if: You would watch the interviews on a porn DVD because you want to know just what makes a person go into porn.

Skip it if: You’re lured by the lurid promise of the title, the noirish pictures on the promo material, or the expectation of anything more titillating than a funk-jazz cover of “In The Air Tonight.”