"THAT '70s SHOW" STAR AND OLIVIA THIRLBY CO-STAR IN PAUL WEITZ'S "LONELY, I'M NOT"
BY HENRY EDWARDS
“Summer in the City”. . . “Summer Love” . . . “Hot Fun in the Summertime” . . . “Summer Breeze”….
If pop music is to be believed, summer and romance go hand and hand. And the feeling of summer love was the feeling that permeated the air at Second Stage Theatre as Paul Weitz’s funny-sad one -act stage dramedy, “Lonely, I’m Not,” spun out its captivated its tale of mismatched love.
Unlike a typical romantic comedy, Porter (Topher Grace) and Heather (Olivia Thirlby), the lovers in Weitz's Los Angeles-based fable, do not meet cute, meeting instead on a blind date. And need it be said Porter hasn't been told his blind date really is blind.
It doesn't take long before the audience learns Porter has a back story that is something to contemplate. After graduating from Harvard, he seemingly graduated overnight to the top of the corporate food chain where he earned a whopping seven-figure salary. But it was all too much, and one day he cracked up and wound up lying on the floor in his own urine during a Citicorp presentation. Along the way, he also married and divorced. And he has recurring nightmares about his terminally ill mother and cries after sex.
The play picks the still wobbly yuppie four years after his commitment and treatment for a nervous breakdown, and he has neither worked nor dated, and continues to feel there is something vitally wrong with him. And when you see the fit he throws when he can’t purchase a latte before his local coffee bar opens for business in the morning, one tends to agree with him.
If Porter is jobless, Heather,on the other hand, is a driven workaholic and determined to prove herself at any cost, in a world that she perceives as discriminating against her because of her disability.
Underneath it all, each yearns for a connection.
Weitz's play sketches the ups, downs and maybes of their love affair, and from the beginning, the audience roots for them not only to get together but also to work it out once they do.
Credit Topher Grace and Olivia Thirlby for inspiring this deliciously empathetic response. Blessed with abundant charm and attractiveness, they are also enormously skilled actors who delineate the shifts in their relationship with the pinpoint precision, the audience rooting for them every step of the way.
Mark Blum, Lisa Emery, Christopher Jackson and Maureen Sebastian play a variety of characters, and their instant transformations add to the fun.
"Lonely, I'm Not" is written in a series of exceptionally short scenes, each preceded in cartoon-Brecht style by a pulsating giant-sized neon caption. It’s a flashy way to pump up the action, and it makes for entertaining eye candy. And by the time the play is over and all of the LED signs are lit once, the stage has been transformed into a neon lit carnival.
Mark Wendland did the sets, and Matt Frey designed the lighting, and their contributions are a treat.
Diurector Trip Cullman orchestrates the proceedings with zest and his customary theatricality.
"Lonely, I'm Not" is a divertissement, nothing more, nothing less. And diverting is exactly what it is.
The limited engagement of “Lonely, I’m Not” at Second Stage Theatre has been extended through June 3 (www.2st.com).