The Crumple Zone | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Crumple Zone 

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THE CRUMPLE ZONE, Bailiwick Repertory. A depressing new comedy by New York playwright Buddy Thomas, the overwrought, glib, and cartoony Crumple Zone depicts holiday desperation. In this calamity-ridden 100-minute concoction, five gay Staten Islanders break up, break down, make up, and make out as Christmas brings them to a boil. The comparatively kind lovers (Michael Covey and Jeffrey Williford) end up bed mates, an obsessed ex (Jon Gestl) gets his walking papers, and the boozing leftovers--a bitter slacker and failed actor (Michael Derry) and the trick he picked up on the Staten Island ferry (Chris Ritter)--stagger into sex.

Thomas touches on intriguing concerns sporadically and generically: fears of commitment and rejection, the unfinished business of love, stalled careers, and the perils of faked feeling. Squabbling, pitying themselves, the men cope with getting fired and getting dumped, stumble into a Christmas tree, open other people's presents, slug it out, and trash the flat.

Director David Zak understandably revs up the high jinks, but as a result the performances are as italicized as the writing. Williford and Covey fare best: their lovers take the high road, and their lines permit some dignity. But Gestl and Derry overplay their nasty, self-hating, semisuicidal, dipsomaniacal losers, who are not unlike the spiteful Gothamites in The Boys in the Band minus the wit. Crumple Zone would like to contrast Christmas schmaltz with authentic loss, but it ends up simply pouring arsenic in the eggnog.

--Lawrence Bommer

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