NY Theater Review By Eric J. Grimm
Enter at Forest Lawn, a new one act by Mark Roberts, begins with lead character Jack (played by Roberts) spitting out a vitriolic, misogynist tirade against his ex-wife. Roberts might be trying to shame his character, a sleazy television producer with the most popular sitcom on broadcast television, but Jack’s monologue is presented with confidence and fluidity and it’s meant to be funny when he flings out insults like “maniacal bush-pig.” It’s not funny and the show never squeezed a laugh out of me despite its screaming attempts.
Roberts is a television writer, having written many episodes of Two and a Half Men and created the show Mike and Molly. His character, Jack, perhaps based on Chuck Lorre, is dealing with an unreliable and cocaine-addicted leading man, presumably Charlie Sheen. In addition to hurling profanities at off-stage characters, Jack shouts his way through conversations with publicist Stanley (David Lanson), assistant Jessica (Sarah Lemp), on-again-off-again mistress Marla (Anna Stromberg), and her unstable, hook-handed nephew, Clinton (Matthew Pilieci). The characters’ interactions are nauseating, particularly during an extremely unfunny bit where Jessica claims that she has been raped. The filthy script often feels like what Roberts would have done on Two and a Half Men had it not been on network television.
Director Jay Stull does this crass, failed satire no favors in this bizarrely stylized production. Every character sports extreme physicalities, perhaps to make them seem more like sideshow attractions than professionals. Jack has an inconsistent swagger that makes him look as if he’s either gearing up for a tap dance or preparing to inject penicillin. The exaggerated characterizations don’t make for compelling performances, though Stromberg’s drag-queeny Marla is occasionally fun to watch. The show’s transitions are as loud as its screaming performers and made all the more startling by David Harwell’s prison-like set. Somehow, even with these attempts at creative interpretation, the play and production still manage to be stale.
Ultimately, Roberts intentions are unclear. If he wants to criticize the television industry, he fails to do so by glorifying Jack’s alpha male personality even though he gets his comeuppance. Roberts would do well to take a page out of Eric Bogosian’s book. Bogosian’s Talk Radio showcased a despicable shock jock character in such a way that made the whole affair uncomfortably funny and horrifying. Enter at Forest Lawn manages to be neither and makes Roberts seem like a product of his own vulgar, creatively barren environment.
*Photos: Russ Rowland
Enter at Forest Lawn is playing at Walkerspace (46 Walker St.). For tickets, visit http://www.theamoralists.com/gyre/.