Daniel Eric Gold and Michael Cullen
in Len, Asleep in Vinyl
(© Joan Marcus)
Daniel Eric Gold and Michael Cullen
in Len, Asleep in Vinyl
(© Joan Marcus)
With a 70-minute running time, Carly Mensch's Len, Asleep in Vinyl, is brief enough not to send audience members into slumberland. But this bland new work, presented at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre as part of Second Stage's "Uptown Series," offers few surprises and director Jackson Gay's mostly uninspired production doesn't do much to help Mensch's play be anything more than mildly amusing.

The paper-thin plot has aspiring musician Max (Daniel Eric Gold) arriving at the cabin of his famous record producer father, Len (Michael Cullen) -- and set designer Wilson Chin has taken to heart Max's description of Len as "a rock and roll Paul Bunyan" to create a somewhat rustic cabin environment that has walls lined with a deer head, guitars, and old vinyl records. (I particularly loved the candelabra fashioned from antlers.) Max wants his father to listen to a demo that he and his band has put together, but Len just wants to escape from the pressures of his life. Meanwhile, local kid William (Dan McCabe) and Len's latest star creation Zoe (Megan Ferguson) are also on hand to complicate matters.

The father-son relationship is at the heart of the play, but the characters aren't developed well enough to make us feel any empathy for them -- despite some demeaning and patronizing comments that Len makes about Max in their inevitable confrontation. The playwright also shoehorns in a few easy jokes at the expense of Zoe, whose drug-fueled good-girl-gone-bad stereotype is cast in the mold of Britney Spears.

While Mensch peppers her script with a few funny lines and quirky observations, she has a tendency to introduce plot points that either don't make any sense or aren't adequately resolved. For instance, early in the play, Len warns his son that "there are creatures in the woods," indicating a possible element of suspense, or even horror. Yet, the only time this thread is picked up on again is through the mention of some of Len's odd dreams about his estranged wife, Isabelle (Leslie Lyles), who eventually arrives on the scene herself.

The way that situation is handled is even worse. After Len disappears for a few hours, William panics, and Max immediately calls his mother, who then has to be airlifted away from a Caribbean cruise. Sure, Len does wind up among the missing for a few days and the family is rich and somewhat eccentric, but this still stretches credulity.

Cullen emphasizes Len's excitability, and his wild eyes give credence to the theory that the man isn't exactly mentally stable. In contrast, Gold has a calm, measured demeanor that works well for most scenes, but there should also be an underlying passion that shows through -- particularly in the big father-son blow-up. McCabe and Ferguson do what they can with sparsely written parts. In spite of a very short amount of stage time, Lyles impresses with a fully grounded and nuanced characterization.