Simon Ward reviews The Crumple Zone at The King’s Head Theatre
Perhaps more often than we care to admit, we find ourselves frustrated in the theatre. There are tantalising glimpses of what might have been, of the author’s intentions, of a good idea not quite realised. We feel that there is possibly a good play lurking somewhere, but it has not managed to emerge tonight. Or even that the ideas are not well served by the chosen form. Press night for The Crumple Zone was one such night. Only the second night of the run, it may yet gel and fizz and pop as it seems to want to. It should be like an episode of Friends on speed. It should blend farce with pathos. Reviews of other productions have been enthusiastic, even ecstatic. But it did not come to life for me on this occasion.
The play is set around Christmastime in the small flat in Staten Island rented by Alex (Lucas Livesey), which he is sharing with Alex (Nic Brittain). They are both struggling actors, working terrible jobs to pay the rent while waiting for their big break. Alex’s girlfriend Sam (Natasha Edwards) is touring, and is a disembodied voice on the answerphone for much of the play. Alex has been ignoring her calls for 3 months because he cannot bear to tell her that he has fallen in love with someone else – Buck (Robbie Capaldi), a straight ahead guy, with a regular job, who just happens to have fallen for Alex – because, as they say, ‘you can’t help who you fall in love with’. The plot revolves around whether Alex will commit to Buck or Sam, and whether Terry will ever find the love he craves. The trouble is, we don’t find out enough about these characters to care about them. They are two-dimensional at best, so the final scene between Terry and Sam, where Terry explains the meaning of the title, is sweet but not really involving.
Written in the early 2000s and is set in the unimaginably distant past of the 90s, the unnamed shadow of AIDS lurks in the background. When Terry in desperation picks up a random stranger (Faros Xenofos) on the Staten Island ferry it is clear what they both want – but Terry will only ‘roll around’ in bed. The fact that there are no mobile phones makes it possible to ignore someone as Alex does to Sam more comprehensively that in these days of mobiles, Skype, Facebook etc.
The evening is full of misfires – Sam’s return from touring into bedlam should have been hilarious, but was merely amusing and a bit embarrassing; Terry literally crushed by Christmas as the tree collapses on top of him went for nothing; Roger declaring that his wife gives him all the love he needs as he rushes into bed with Terry should have been funny and shocking but simply fell flat. There are incidental pleasures. Terry’s complaining about The Grinch Who Stole Christmas is witty, and the description of how Alex is fired as Santa two days before Christmas is amusing. Natasha Edwards delivers a convincingly feisty performance as Sam. But seek your wry festive entertainment elsewhere.
Runs until 9th December at The King’s Head Theatre