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Sleeping with Mom & Dad

By Scott Manus
Directed by Warren Etheredge
78th Street Theatre Lab (946-5017)
236 W. 78th St. (closes Feb. 9)
Review by Adrienne Onofri

This play's worthiness depends on whether one regards it as a spoof of Friends or yet another rip-off of that trendy sitcom. The same press release calls Sleeping With Mom & Dad both an ``antidote to the bombardment of singles-themed movies, TV shows and self-help books'' and an ``intelligent exploration of the human psyche and the pragmatics of passion.'' It's too smug and derivative for the latter, but it pushes all the right buttons for a spoof--it's brisk, fun and over-the-top.

Dialogue such as ``What is romantic in film is perceived in real life as pathetic or desperate... Being real and human in front of other people is just a bad idea'' sounds as though playwright Scott Manus was out to add his own pearls of wisdom to the literature of courtship in the '90s rather than just satirize it. But, if Manus had any pretensions of originality, would he have set his play in a coffeehouse where three men and three women--all white, attractive, single and neurotic--swap dating advice and pop culture references?

This scenario is an obvious send-up of Friends. The jokes come fast and furious, and some of the characters border on caricatures--all of which makes it easy to not take the show seriously. There also are some very funny gags, like an ``intimacy management class.'' Sleeping With Mom & Dad at times resembles a comedy revue more than a play, since its storylines are underdeveloped and nothing is revealed about the characters beyond their neuroses about the opposite sex. The play ends, surprisingly and very abruptly, on a heart-breaking note. This again raises the question of whether Sleeping With Mom & Dad was intended purely as parody.

Regardless, the show got a tremendous boost from its endearing cast. As the six singles, Andy Meyer, Samantha Brown, Abigail Walker, Catherine Zambri, Larry Bell, and Bruce Weaken were deft comedians and imbued their shallow characters with vibrant personalities. Walker and Meakem were adorable in their love scene, while other inspired moments included Bell's facial expressions as he listened to his girlfriend critique his love-making and Meyer's reaction when he realizes he's been dating his mother (figuratively). The only fault in the casting was with the role of Meyer's therapist, played by Michael Gans and Richard Register, who perform as the comedy team Gans & Register Register & Gans. Their frenetic shtick may be amusing as its own act, but here it came off as irritating scenery-chewing. (Also featuring Leslie Brooks, Dorothy Walker, and Beth Littleford. Sets, Peter R. Feuchtwanger; lighting, Anne Duston Cheney.)

Box Score:
Writing 1
Directing 1
Acting 2
Set 1
Costumes 1
Lighting/Sound 1
Copyright 1997 Adrienne Onofri

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