By Elaine Liner
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
OK, funny's funny, and why bust on a young playwright like Ginsburg who's just beginning to earn his chops? Well, a stage isn't a TV screen. Our expectations for TV fare already are lower than a snake's kneecaps these days, diminished by half-baked sitcoms like Yes, Dear and Dharma & Greg that drag on season after season. If we happen to run across anything mildly original and amusing when we light on a channel for more than 30 seconds, we're grateful. And if Friends wants to rehash an old MTM joke, it's a sort of nudge-nudge-wink homage to a TV-comedy ancestor. But our expectations are and should be greater for the theater, where, after all, the audience pays for tickets, is held captive for a few hours and can't fast-forward through the boring parts. It might be more forgivable for a young playwright to blatantly derive his comedic material from Stoppard or Shakespeare. But it cheapens the whole notion of what theater is to ask a theatergoer to buy a ticket and sit on a hard chair for warmed-over Seinfeld jokes delivered by unknowns. At least sitcoms last only 22 minutes. Rebound and Gagged is 2 1/2 hours of two-minute scenes.
The cast does deserve a nod for doing a tip-top job with what they're given. The five actors in this show play their lines smartly and quickly, maintaining that laid-back, sitcommy style that lets characters deliver jokes while slumped on a futon cramming chips in their mouths.
David Goodwin is terrific as nice guy Kyle, the dumpee who gets over his hurt only to fall stupidly in love with his galpal roomie, the lovely Cooper. Goodwin, a sort of stringier version of a young Kevin Bacon, holds the jumpier scenes together with his direct, no-frills performance. Leah Spillman makes Cooper more important than Ginsburg's writing wants her to be, but she's blessed with lively energy and a quirky, offbeat beauty. As Jase, the slovenly goof Cooper calls "a 5-year-old with facial hair," Andy Mangin makes a lovable mutt into an unlikely prince charming. Max Hartman transitions seamlessly into a number of other men's roles, including Herrick, the college dweeb-turned-success who throws off the equilibrium of his old friends with his newfound sense of suave. Playing all of Kyle's dates, ranging from a rock club chickie to Dana the Dumper, Laurel Whitsett is a whippet with a kitschy grin.
They all seem to know they're acting in a situation comedy that has accidentally found itself playing, not to four cameras on a soundstage in Burbank, but to 50 people in a tiny theater near downtown Dallas. They have a good time anyway, and so does the audience. And afterward, just like the folks who sit in bleachers to watch weekly tapings of network comedies, those who've seen Rebound and Gagged and liked it will head to their cars relaxed and smiling, perhaps making a mental note to tune in next week to see what happens.