Maddie Corman and Jim Stanek in Desperate Writers
(© Carol Rosegg)
Maddie Corman and Jim Stanek in Desperate Writers
(© Carol Rosegg)
Joshua Grenrock and Catherine Schreiber's desperately unfunny comedic fantasy, Desperate Writers, now at the Union Square Theatre, traps a talented cast in a thoroughly amateurish script that director Kay Cole is unable to steer in an intelligible direction.

David (Jim Stanek) and Ashley (Maddie Corman) are an aging couple living in Los Angeles who also write screenplays together. Driven by the frustration of rejection and her desire to have children and finally marry David, Ashley impulsively kidnaps three successful producers (one of which is played by Schreiber) whom she meets while moonlighting as a caterer.

We're supposed to believe she gets the idea at a cocktail party when a friend rants, "the only way to get those people to read a damn script is to put a gun to their heads, throw em in a cage, lock em up and make em read it" because that's exactly what she proceeds to do. Never mind where she gets a cage the size of a spacious jail cell at a moment's notice or how, being a woman of slight build, she kidnaps three people simultaneously. The show is not concerned with these details.

While David knows nothing of his girlfriend's spontaneous transgression to full-blown felon, it doesn't take much convincing to get him to read one of his scripts to his trapped audience. As he goes on about some over-plotted yet underdeveloped idea, we can't help but feel like his imprisoned guests. The dialogue (both in the play and in David and Ashley's screenplay From God's Mouth) is hopelessly stale, and Grenrock and Schreiber rattle off lines that try too hard to be witty without examining who these characters are.

The action is occasionally punctuated by calls from David and Ashley's animated agent, Vanessa (Pauletta Pearson Washington). These scenes are amusing at first but, like the rest of the play, they don't go anywhere.

Set designer Lauren Helpern evokes the infinitely smarter and funnier film Ruthless People with her 1980s Hollywood flair and neon-colored walls, but that ultimately only heightens any comparisons to far superior entertainment than Desperate Writers.