Christopher Innvar and Daniella Alonsoin Eight Days (Backwards)(Photo © Carol Rosegg)
Christopher Innvar and Daniella Alonso
in Eight Days (Backwards)
(Photo © Carol Rosegg)
How would you like to do the time warp again... and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again? Well, that's the repetitive feeling you may get while sitting through Jeremy Dobrish's Eight Days (Backwards), the Vineyard Theatre's newest production.

Performed on a stage filled with black-and-white projections of New York City, the play consists of eight scenes of eight days in the lives of thirteen different characters (played by seven actors). Most of these scenes involve the same characters or others related to those whom we have previously seen, as Dobrish gradually builds them through regressive explanation and detail.

In spite of its interesting concept, the intermissionless show tends to drag. It begins with a rather amusing sequence in which Italian wife Gloria (Randy Danson) describes to her friend via cell phone how her husband expressed his desire to become her sexual slave. All of a sudden, husband Frank (Bill Buell) enters dressed in Rocky Horror-like attire: red high heels, black stockings, and a black leather dress. In his few lines, Buell asks how he can be a "good boy" for his "Mistress Gloria." This scene is by far the funniest and most enjoyable of the evening as the audience wonders what the hell is going on: We have witnessed a character's odd behavior and we eagerly wait an explanation.

Unfortunately, the play does not return to this situation until the very end. The remainder of the text explores the life of husband, father, and philanderer Goldberg (Christopher Innvar), who seems to be experiencing a mid-life crisis. In his first appearance, which includes a nude scene, he makes love to his Hispanic maid Consuela (Daniella Alonso); the scene becomes more and more disturbing as we see that he is treating her as a prostitute by giving her money each time she sleeps with him. Later, we meet the other people in Goldberg's life, such as his business associates and his wife. But after the first scene, the audience feels no sympathy for the man, and this hurts the play.

The most enjoyable sequence in Dobrish's exploration of Goldberg's life comes when we meet his son Jonathan (Josh Radnor), who is having trouble adapting to the real world after having studied English at Yale. After a discussion with Innvar (here in the role of a bartender), Jonathan attempts to seduce Selena (Daniella Alonso), a girl whom he singles out randomly at the bar. Dobrish makes a major point in this scene: the importance of timing, which can so often account opportunities being missed or taken. After Jonathan leaves the bar, Selena re-enters in an attempt to catch him, but she's too late. What could have been will never be.

The last scene finally returns to the situation of the opening scene, as Frank contemplates with his bar buddy Izzy (David Garrison) whether or not to sexually debase himself in the way that we have already witnessed him doing. Though this subplot has completely ignored for the bulk of the play, it does provide a humorous ending.

The myriad plays, musicals, films, and TV shows dealing with romantic and sexual relationships among contemporary New Yorkers have ranged from Company to Sex and the City. Despite its flaws, Eight Days (Backwards)) features great acting by its ensemble cast, and director Mark Brokaw keeps the vignettes moving at a speedy pace. Dobrish's script begins well as a comedy but loses impact and audience interest as it tries to become a drama about lost love. As the show regresses literally, it also seems to do so figuratively.