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'The Grand Irrationality' Features A Talented Cast In A Frustrating Show

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A sound one never wants to hear when presenting a new show is the lonely clatter of one person starting to clap at the end of a scene and awkwardly stopping upon realizing nobody else is joining in. The sound is worse if that routine occurs more than once, every repetition driving home the realization that they could clap, but they're choosing not to. Unfortunately, that sound was frequently heard at The Lost Studio's new production of Jemma Kennedy's The Grand Irrationality, a play where good actors make the best of an uneven script and suffer through a surfeit of set changes so ponderous they sink the show.

Advertising designer Guy (Gregory Marcel) already has his hands full with an assignment to promote a soft drink for women using astrology and a new relationship with the project manager, Nina (Kirsten Kollender). The last thing he needs is his depressed sister Liz (Mina Badie) and his estranged father Murray (Peter Elbling) moving in with him. Things become yet more complicated when he meets Vivienne (Bess Meyer), a charity worker neighbor of Murray's who makes Guy question what he really wants to do with his life.

Marcel is believable and likeable as Guy, although as written, his character motivations seem a bit thin. Kollender is terrific as Nina, a cheerful embodiment of corporate sales thinking, and her performance is fully realized in a way that a lot of the play is not. Elbling is charming as Murray, evoking an easy comic gravitas, and Meyer is refreshingly blunt as Vivienne. Badie is stuck with the least fleshed-out role as written, but she does a fine job with a harrowing monologue about children devouring their mothers. James Donovan fails to convince as Guy's boss, Alex, his accent traveling all over the British Isles without ever settling on one.

Kennedy's play has its share of wit and nice writing, but it isn't particularly compelling or memorable. Guy's plight seems generic, and Liz is so one-note ("My baby hates me. I'm going to bed.") that she doesn't generate the sympathy she might. Director John Pleshette's decision to include approximately 20 set changes in a two-hour show is woefully misguided. The props are minimal (a few chairs, a table, a couple of couches), but they are moved slowly, along with the rearrangement of sliding backdrops, creating sparse settings. Worse, each one of these changes is accompanied by the same piece of lugubrious music—by the time this was played for the tenth time or so, audience members were rolling their eyes and complaining amongst themselves.

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This play would benefit immensely from a simple static set, and by just removing the set changes, 20 minutes would be edited from the production, which would be both grand and rational.

"The Grand Irrationality" plays at The Lost Studio through March 3. Tickets are available online.