nytheatre.com review by Case Aiken
August 18, 2011
Smoking Section tells the tale of a swanky Italian restaurant, (predictably) called the Smoking Section, and the various couples who pass through on their path to romance. Chris Bayon makes for an amusing maitre d’, directly conversing with the audience and setting the stage for the 2.5 scenes we are given to watch. I wish I had seen more of him, as he is charismatic and one of the few sane characters in the piece. Instead, we (predictably) spend more time with the “wacky” waiter, Pasquale (Chris Bucci), who from his behavior might hint at the reason for the play’s title.
The piece is divided in two, wherein we see two tables seated each round and the farcical dealings that result. The first round (predictably) follows a man trying to propose to his girlfriend and the ring getting mixed up. The highlight of this round is Michael Bernardi as Brian, a delightful scumbag who legitimately made me chuckle several times. The second round is stronger, featuring two separate couples that deal with their total inability to relate, but only slightly. Incredibly uncomfortable staging mars the later half as horribly as the first (predictably), but the characters are more interesting and the humor a little better honed. Characters still take their private moments right in front of each other and switching between scenes still occur with moments of time and space being completely displaced. Then… the play doesn’t really have a conclusion, it just ends, which is accurate to the nature of a restaurant but is awkward for a play.
(Predictably) Given my review so far, I can’t really recommend this play. It is quick at least, but that’s more for lack of content than tight pacing. I wish it could be stronger as there are several actors who I could see really trying to make something of their roles, but as it is, the play just putters aimlessly and fizzles out.