Michael Weston and James Roday
in Extinction
(© Carol Rosegg)
Michael Weston and James Roday
in Extinction
(© Carol Rosegg)
Two former college buddies reunite at a hotel room in Atlantic City in Gabe McKinley's formulaic new play Extinction, now making its New York premiere at the Cherry Lane Theatre. The work is engaging enough, but don't expect any new insights into male behavior as the play's 30-something central characters wrestle with issues of aging, mortality, and arrested development.

Max (Michael Weston) and Finn (James Roday) have gotten together for what's supposed to be their annual tradition of partying and chasing women. However, Finn isn't really in the mood, partly due to his impoverished financial situation and partly due to his recent marriage and impending fatherhood. On the other hand, Max is looking for a fun-filled weekend to help him forget his troubles, which include the recent death of his mother.

McKinley nicely establishes the camaraderie between the two men, based mostly on superficial banter, nostalgic reminiscences, and even a bit of homoerotic tension. He also gives us early clues that Max and Finn don't really have a whole lot in common, and as the play progresses, this divide becomes more and more apparent. When drugs and alcohol are added into the mix, secrets are predictably divulged, resentments are expressed, and both men say and do things that will irrevocably alter their friendship.

Weston presents an effective combination of bluster and neediness as Max, while Roday skillfully navigates Finn's journey from milquetoast to aggressor. Rounding out the cast are Amanda Detmer and Stefanie E. Frame as two women that Max brings back to his hotel room. Both give satisfactory, if not particularly revelatory, performances.

What's missing from Extinction is a keen sense of dramatic tension, as things play out pretty much as you might expect -- including what was probably intended as a shocking conclusion. Too often the dialogue feels like a debate between talking heads rather than an actual conversation. Adding to this impression is some rather pedestrian staging from director Wayne Kasserman, although set designer Steven C. Kemp nicely rises to the occasion of presenting an interesting design for the two adjoining hotel rooms occupied by Max and Finn.