Other Life Forms, local actor and playwright Brandon McCoy’s new play, is likable—sweet, goofy and well-intentioned—but still needs a lot of work to have any lasting impact.
The comic curiosity at The Keegan Theatre deals with the weighty themes of love and human connection in a sitcom-fashion; it’s too self-conscious and not original enough to be laugh-out-loud funny (even though the press night crowd was yukking it up), while also lacking the confidence and bearing to sufficiently drive home its overarching message.
The play begins with a round of synchronized dating, then springs into a silly situation comedy scenario reminiscent of Third Rock from the Sun or The Big Bang Theory and ends with a mopey reconciliation scene seemingly from another play. There are a couple of plot surprises in store which to the writer’s credit are creative and unexpected, but which aren’t ever really brought to boil.
The quartet of online daters include the blowhard Ben (Josh Sticklin), his quirky roommate Jeff (John Loughney), and their respective fix-ups Mollie (Shanta Parasuraman) and Leslie (Brianna Letourneau). The play has a message to impart, but gets in its own way from the outset. The premise of couples on simultaneous first dates is acutely opportune for rich entertainment and director Shirley Serotsky makes good use of designer Matthew Keenan’s restaurant booth set as it swivels between the two locations.
A stronger writer could create an entire play from that setup alone, but the uneven dialogue and Sticklin’s conspicuously broad characterization undermine the scene’s great potential.
Other Life Forms
closes July 7, 2018
Details and tickets
Parasuraman—who etched some of the best moments I’ve experienced in theater this year as the indelible #8 in Studio Theatre’s surprisingly moving The Wolves—is underserved in her role as an irritable vegetarian on an absurdly bad date.
Letourneau and Loughney are much better and more natural in their roles, with Loughney deserving of special mention for the later turn his character takes. Once the plot twist is processed and accepted, he provides much of the play’s highlights, in comic and homiletic turns.
Ultimately, Other Life Forms is about the reconsideration of important relationships in our lives. It attempts to remind us of the destructive nature of familiarity when it’s allowed to erode the bonds of love to life’s detriment, and endeavors to soften up the lesson with some laughs. But I couldn’t get past the production’s fundamental gawkiness.
Other Life Forms by Brandon McCoy. Directed by Shirley Serotsky. Featuring Shanta Parasuraman, Josh Sticklin, Brianna Letourneau, John Loughney and Aidan Quartana. Set designer: Matthew Keenan. Costume designer: Amy MacDonald. Lighting designer: Paul Callahan. Sound designer: Brandon McCoy. Hair and makeup designer: Craig Miller. Stage manager: Juliana Parks. Produced by The Keegan Theatre. Reviewed by Roy Maurer.