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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
WHITE'S LIES
at New World Stages

DEAD PLAY WALKING
By PATRICK LEE


A leaden, one-door farce in which a selfish, lying womanizer falls in love with a gal who may or may not be his long-lost daughter, Ben Andron’s White’s Lies manages to be both harrowingly unfunny as well as consistently unappealing. A talented cast, led by Betty Buckley, can’t save it.
 
It’s apparent that the show is going to be tough-going from the very first scene, as Joe White (Tuc Watkins) sends his latest one-night-stand to the shower after an overnight on his office couch. They’ve been interrupted by his colleague (Peter Scolari), who suggests that their firm hire a female as a precautionary measure lest they appear sexist. Joe: “If I wanted a girl on my staff I would just go to a bar." The punch lines in this show will never be mistaken for sophisticated, or clever.
 
Hilarity, such as this show defines it, ensues when Joe's mom (Buckley) arrives unexpectedly to reveal that she has cancer. The two don’t need to bother themselves with this news and don’t; Mom is out the door as quickly as she came once she proclaims her dying wish for a grandchild. For reasons of plot device, at the expense of believable behavior, Joe is soon preoccupied with the need to have a child to please Mom. As luck would have it, the next person in the door is an ex-lover (Andrea Grano) with a daughter (Cristy Carlson Romano) as old as the breakup with Joe. It’s hard to say which is more unbelievable: that he’d almost instantly fall in love with the daughter and change his womanizing ways, that the still-bitter ex would agree to the ensuing scam, or that no one would think to do a paternity test immediately.
 
The playwright has written a busy script thick with situation and woefully thin on character. The best favor a director could do it would be to race through it as quickly as possible, but Bob Cline instead gives it a slow burial. Every failed laugh line is another nail in the coffin.
 
The actors mostly escaped unscathed. Buckley’s abrasive role doesn’t play to her strengths, but she manages to find moments to soften it. Watkins has the task of driving the show and does well in oily cad mode, but doesn’t convince when the character turns good guy. He’s the kind of actor who can project insincerity deliciously, but this material fails him. Rena Strober plays multiple roles – virtually every one-night stand and then some – and sneaks in some welcome comic flourish. Jimmy Ray Bennett, mostly confined to the groan-worthy, shopworn role as Joe's swishy office assistant, isn’t as fortunate. Cristy Carlson Romano, a charming young actress who projects natural warmth, escapes most unscathed.
 

 


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