★★★½☆ - Satisfying
Las Vegas Little Theatre dives head first into "The Siegel," Michael Mitnick's, modern- day, yuppie romcom, presented on their main stage through the weekend. Directed by Kyle Jones and Hallie Lyons, it's full of amusing moments, moves at a brisk pace, and has a nice design aesthetic that highlights the millennial perspective. And while the energetic cast has a knack for capturing Mitnick's sarcastic and witty banter, the show feels flat and lacks immediacy, partly because the premise of the story is just very strange.
The title of the 2017 play is a homonym for Anton Chekhov's classic "The Seagull," which Mitnick emulates with themes about love and destiny, though he never manages the subtext needed to flesh out those ideas. At the start we are thrust abruptly into the plot, and it takes a few minutes to get our bearings as we are confronted with a frenetic Ethan Siegel in the living room of the befuddled Ron and Deborah. He has shown up out of the blue to ask for their daughter Alice's hand in marriage, because he loves her and it's the proper thing to do. The problem is, they broke up two years ago and now she lives happily with her boyfriend Nelson, who she slept with before she and Ethan split. Undeterred, he continues his relentless pursuit.
Living with regret, the consequences of the choices we make, and the paths we take is a theme that is touched upon throughout the play. Is Ethan chasing an idealized romantic love that exists only in his imagination so that he can rewrite his own history? The enigmatic, weird Ethan is a difficult role to play. But we all know the guy that actor Jake Taylor brings to life with his portrayal. He's that childlike, hyper dude with zero self-awareness, who has no filter and no concept of the boundaries of another's personal space. But he's cute and poetic with a kooky charm, so we tolerate his shenanigans. While Taylor doesn't always seem comfortable inhabiting Ethan and doesn't find much nuance in the character, his energy is unwavering and he truly embodies that annoying guy we all love to hate.
Alice is Ethan's opposite, and Shana Brouwers captures her pragmatic yet reflective nature and nails the many sarcastic lines that roll off her tongue with ease. A former campaign manager for a candidate who lost a recent presidential election (ahem), Brouwer's regret is palpable as she pines not for Ethan but for what could've been without that failure, which has shaped her identity and outlook on life. We don't get a glimpse of the mutual affinity the two might have shared while a couple until later on, during an intimate dinner and a tipsy walk afterward. And while those scenes are pleasant enough, there really isn't much chemistry there.
The easy-going Nelson at first is unfazed by the appearance of Ethan. Alex Bassett in the part gives the most compelling and complete performance of the show, when Ethan becomes the catalyst for a growing realization that he needs to make a proposal of his own. So while Ethan and Alice are dining he heads on over to the home of Ron, played by Jodi Solbrig, and Deborah, played by Gillen Brey, to do just that. He has a perfectly metered, epic meltdown for one of the funniest and most touching scenes in the show. Bassett and Brey share a nice rapport, and their facial expressions are priceless as she sips wine and throws amused sideways glances at his frustrated, profanity-laced asides. Solbrig and Brey feel like a well-worn couple with their comfortable, back-and-forth banter, and Rose Donahue is sweet in her cameo as computer geek Jordan.
Ron Lindblom's detailed, two-story set design with its six different locations gives the impression of looking at a collage of photos on an Instagram page. There's a clever bit towards the end where Jones and Lyons make excellent use of Alice and her parent's side-by-side living rooms with simultaneous argument scenes and slamming doors that borrow from farce. Ginny Adam's thoughtful lighting design defines and illuminates the mood and relationships of each individual mini set, the annoying text message alerts in Rebecca Sass' sound design add a touch of realism, and Candace Wynants' costumes are apropos for the two different generations and the styles of the characters.
Mitnick doesn't give much clarity into what drives Ethan's audacious behavior. A surprise twist in the denouement only muddles the issue further, and makes him seem even more like a creeper. The one thing that is clear, though, is that Alice chose the right guy.