In “L.A. Deli” a prosaic, by the numbers, painfully formulaic, joke parade, some two score plus denizens of L.A. (all played by Rachel Boller, Scott Kruse, Jeffrey Landman, Gail Matthius, Darrin Revitz and – holy guacamole – Phil Proctor!) take meetings, suck up, romance, divorce and deceive one another in a series of situations radiating the same measure of originality and relevance as a rerun of Love American Style.
Played on a Jeffery P. Eisenmann’s set that so perfectly captures a corner deli that I’m sure ¾ of the audience was Jonesing for a pastrami fix by the final blackout, “L.A. Deli” by Sam Bobrick succeeds in being a perfectly fine “okay” show.
The jokes fly, some okay, some not okay, most so familiar as to be forgettable:
First Man: You’re a writer.
Second Man: How’d you know?
First Man: You don’t look important.
Walter Painter directs his actors to slip from one role to the next with the fluidness of stale Silly Putty, and displays a lack of inspiration in handling material whose only hope resided in an inspired staging.
Actors enter the deli then cross to sit at one table, then the next, then another, in blocking reminiscent of the play within the movie of Tootsie in which Dustin Hoffman is directed to cross downstage left before dying.
The shifts from one character to another begs for the old “Quick Change Artist” routine, where a spry young man exits through one door and almost immediately re-enters as an elderly spinster with a walker.
But none of that here.
An actor exits and then re-enters as in the guise of a new character denoted by his wearing glasses – metamorphose!
The actors give their all even if playwright and director haven’t. They all have moments especially Matthius and Revitz. Landman, with a face like an Arthur Rankin’s rendering of a Lewis Carroll creation, is at his best in the more unctuous roles.
And it was a treat to see Phil Proctor, of the legendary Firesign Theatre comedy troupe, treading the boards with a certain aplomb.
The high point of the evening came in the form of a curtain call ditty, which concludes the production with the actors celebrating in song, good brisket and L.A. dreamers.
As I stated, this show rates a firm “okay”, and if you like your comedy “lite” this could be a fun evening, just order horseradish on the side.