nytheatre.com review by Jo Ann Rosen
June 21, 2006
Clean, a new play by Bob Epstein, is set for a two-week run at Urban Stages. The big question is why? His play still feels like a rough draft, and has not passed the workshop level. Described as an offbeat new comedy, it fails to elicit any laughter; the plot barely hangs together. The actors, all but one experienced Equity players, are probably good at their craft, but director Christopher Maring (a member of Lincoln Center Directors Lab, among other credits) doesn’t allow them to scratch the surface of their characters. Therefore, he needs to take the fall for preventing them from connecting to their parts and with each other. Maring tries variously for farce, shtick, madcap, and parody, but he lands flat-footed with a 10” banana cream pie on his face for not selecting one or the other. Then again, if the lines are not funny, it would be difficult to make any of the genres work. Thank goodness for the video and projection, designed by Katy Tucker, and the sets, designed by Sarah Pearline. Both deliver professional work.
Briefly, a rich industrialist named Daniel, is arrested for dirty dealings as his spoiled daughter, Digby, makes her way to the Hamptons. On the way, she meets Darius, an entertainment lawyer; Bill, her father’s double-crossing partner; Fescue, an undercover FBI agent and a war vet; Lucianna, her father’s young fling; and Agent Smith, the train’s ticket taker.
In the starring role of Digby, Sarah Viccellio has apparently been directed to deliver two hours of superficial Valley Girl talk. She clearly has the talent to do better since Tucker captures her on video as a perfectly believable Romanian aristocrat. Albert Insinnia fails to convince us that he could actually make a buck let alone build and run a mega company as his character Daniel is described. Insinnia’s accent wavers between Brooklyn and Mafioso. Nancy Rodriguez captures the Latin lady Lucianna, turning her back on her sugar daddy as she connives and canoodles with his partner, played by Karl Jacob.
Rounding out the cast are Bjorn Thorstad, as the lawyer who springs Daniel from jail, and John Kudan, who plays Fescue. The trouble with the character Fescue is that he is all over the place and lacks definition. Dressed in military garb, he explains that he expected to be sent to Europe, but instead landed in Vietnam. Unshaven, begging for money, and wiping his nose on his sleeve, Kudan is really an undercover FBI agent, who is motivated to solve his current case by the promise that he, somehow still in the army, will get to select where he will next be stationed. Kudan doesn’t help this confusion when he muffles some lines and simply forgets others. Only Cherene Snow as Agent Smith embodies her character straightforwardly and with credibility.
To deliver us from an evening of embarrassing mediocrity, Sarah Pearline has designed a clever train to carry everyone out to the Hamptons. Along the way, Katy Tucker’s inventive projections show scenery passing by, adding dimension and space to the tiny stage. Timothy Cramer, sound designer, interjects train whistle sounds in an animated scene between Rodriguez and Jacob, creating an amusing moment, but alas it is not enough to save a play that with cuts and rewrites might deliver a modicum of entertainment in exchange for an audience’s forbearance.