Amy Landecker and Thomas Sadoski in All This Intimacy(© Joan Marcus)
Amy Landecker and Thomas Sadoski in All This Intimacy
(© Joan Marcus)
The tip-off that Rajiv Joseph's All This Intimacy, now at Second Stage Uptown at the McGinn/Cazale, is going to be given a very broad treatment comes from David Newell's set design, which includes large representations of sperm on the walls and even on the stage floor. The problem isn't that the design is tasteless, but that it's so grotesquely obvious. Once the show begins, it's clear that this over-the-top approach has been taken up by director Giovanna Sardelli, who has either encouraged some of the cast to overact or simply failed to rein them in.

The piece itself has some plot contrivances, but it also displays a certain thematic unity and some very fine writing. Not that things start off well. The opening scene between the protagonist Ty (Thomas Sadoski) and his best friend, Seth (Adam Green), establishes an off-putting tone of hysteria. For some reason, Seth becomes increasingly crazed as Ty explains that, over the past nine days, he has had sex with three different women ranging in age from 18 to 42. Green plays the character as nearly apopleptic in this scene; happily, Sadoski does his best to underplay his dialogue and draw us into the situation.

Eventually, we learn that Ty has impregnated all three women. One of them is his married neighbor, Maureen (an earthy and appealing Amy Landecker), who had thought she was unable to conceive. Another is his 18-year-old student Becca (an amusingly brittle Krysten Ritter), who has ended up pregnant despite being on the pill. The third woman carrying Ty's baby -- because the condom broke -- is his longtime girlfriend Jenn (Gretchen Egolf in a sweet, smart, vulnerable performance). Ty is not only in deep trouble, he is also in deep denial.

Under Sardelli's direction, the play veers back and forth from sitcom-style humor to drama. But there are some effective metaphors in the writing, such as the discussion of the "Pangaea" supercontinent that hypothetically existed before the world's land masses began to break apart. The concept neatly enough parallels Ty's sense of family shattering in the face of his actions.

To the extent that the play is successful, Sadoski deserves extra credit. He is a charming actor playing a roguish character who cheats on his girlfriend(s) and lies a lot. Yet, Sadoski somehow makes us like Ty even as we disapprove of his behavior. He gets some help from Joseph -- author of the acclaimed Huck & Holden -- who has given Ty the ability to break the fourth wall and attempt to justify his actions.

Another character on hand is Jenn's sister, Franny. Loud, shallow, and nasty, Franny is an amusing creation, but Kate Nowlin plays her so broadly that the laughs come at the expense of the play's serious underpinnings. The production might be more effective if Nowlin and Green were directed less for comic relief and more for emotional relief. In that case, the humor would still be there, but it would be delivered in more human terms. As it is, All This Intimacy isn't all that it could be.