Wanton Displays Of Affection
nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
August 13, 2010
Wanton Displays of Affection is three short comic sketches that comprise about an hour of some fairly entertaining theatre. The evening opens with two guys standing on the ledge of a building debating who should jump first. "I don't want you to land on me" one says to the other. They also debate whose life is worse and who more deserves to be suicidal. Titled Default Swap, this play, like the other two, is a slow burner with a twist at the end. Playwright Zach Smilovitz likes to pack all the big laughs into the last five minutes of his sketches. This one, however, has jokes a little more evenly distributed throughout than the others. At first I thought director Yael Kiken envisioned vaudevillian style delivery for this piece due to the timing and tone of the banter but I soon realized that was not the case. Actor Paul Manganello has a peculiar acting style that reminded me of some actors from the 1940s combined with a little Woody Allen. In some ways it works but in others it just seems a little out of place. His partner, Lee Chrisman, does a good job with his role and overall I enjoyed this sketch.
The next sketch, Mr. and Mrs. Aronovitz Go To The Doctor, is a funny and somewhat clever scene about an aging Jewish couple who go to the doctor with an embarrassing problem. I won't ruin the surprise ending here by revealing what Mr. Aronovitz has contracted, but it is quite funny. Smilovitz's writing here moves very slowly to his clever turnaround. There are a few laughs in the beginning and middle but the jokes here are not particularly original and they fall a little flat. The cast, Nico Ager and Lily Marks as Mr. and Mrs. Aronovitz, respectively, with Lee Chrisman as the doctor, do a good job with their aging characters and their accents. I am not always a fan of young actors playing aging characters but it is fairly well done in this case and that's because it isn't overdone.
The final sketch, The Bodies, is much more serious than the others. It still has Smilovitz's signature turnaround at the end but there are no laughs in this one. We see two couples in a car on a country road. One of the guys is tripping on acid and his girlfriend is worried that he has taken too much and he's going to die. She has called their friends at three in the morning to pick them up and take them to the hospital. The tension here is thick. The driver doesn't want to go to the hospital and insists that the tripper will be okay. Smilovitz's dialogue meanders through many topics and he has them almost constantly needling each other about one thing or another until it finally lands on one key point at the very end. The cast, Jamie Lyn Beatty, Brittany Uomoleale along with Ager and Manganello, do a fine job. I really liked Ager and Uomoleale's struggle to keep their main issue as a couple under wraps. Beatty plays her character on a single stressed-out level and that works for much of the scene but possibly some other choices could have been employed. Director Liam White keeps a fast pace and I liked his staging of the interior of the car.
Overall, Wanton Displays of Affection, is an enjoyable hour of theatre. It reminds me of something you might see in college black box theatre. Smilovitz's writing is good and the cast handles his comedy with some style and some skill. This show is good for a few laughs.