Oliver Parker! With an exclamation point no less has just opened at the Cheery Lane Theatre. What’s with the exclamation point? It’s not a musical. Although they did change the title from Oliver to Oliver Parker! And it’s certainly not worth exclaiming over. It’s barely amusing with its four dysfunctional characters on parade in the dilapidated mess of an apartment strewn with debris (designed by Lauren Halpern) where you expect to see vermin breeding and roaches crossing the stage. This does happens to some extent.
It’s billed as a “jet black” comedy “about hurting the ones you love, and loving the ones that hurt.” It’s written by Elizabeth Meriwether who has her fingers in many pies, busy writing for the theatre and screenplays in Hollywood. But I digress.
Oliver Parker (Michael Zegen) is seventeen. Rich. Spoiled. Accustomed to getting his way. With everyone and everything with his checkbook. He pays for the apartment that Vodka swilling Jasper (John Larroquette) looking like “a Santa Claus on heroine” calls home attempting to right a terrible wrong. His back story is pivotal to the meandering and rambling plot that includes bits and pieces of just about everything that Ms. Meriwether has gotten her fingers into: God, aids, Viet Nam, death, United States Senators, drugs, sex, child abuse, blow jobs, trannies, role playing, cable’s LIFETIME, illegal aliens, and My Fair Lady to mention a few.
Oliver wants to use said apartment for sex and he has his eyes and loins set on Senator Willa Cross (Johanna Day – the highlight of the show) – a definitely older woman who needs to get a supply of drugs from Oliver’s physician father to help her get over the rape and murder of her daughter, sending her aide Agnes (Monica Raymund) who has daddy issues to pick them up – no questions asked.
I’d love to say that the time (ninety minutes) whizzes by but it doesn’t. Even when director Evan Cabnet frantically turns to farce to help with the lack of taste and humor that Ms. Meriwether has supplied. Tried caring; couldn’t.
What does she want the audience to come away with? That rich powerful people get what they want when they want it and that it’s horrible to be horrible to other human beings? We already know this. And the characters chosen do not help to further her cause. Perhaps it’s to make us feel better that we are not them.
Tickets $37.50 Through June 6th. Photo: The Shaltzes/Photographers