Darnell Williams, Glory Gallo, and Ned Massey in Guilty
(© Monique Carboni)
Darnell Williams, Glory Gallo, and Ned Massey in Guilty
(© Monique Carboni)
Everyone's got a secret in Nancy Manocherian's Guilty, now receiving its world premiere from The Cell Theatre Company at Theatre Row's Acorn Theatre. Hidden indiscretions come to light and betrayals abound as a group of upper class New Yorkers fumble their way through their lives, often damaging one another in the process. The production fumbles along as well, as the uneven cast fails to enliven this tedious dark comedy.

The play unfolds as a series of short scenes that track the lives of a group of friends and lovers, whom we first meet at the funeral of a pet dog. Dori (Glory Gallo) is an unfulfilled artist married to the wealthy Adam (Darnell Williams). Laura (Heather Kenzie) repeatedly tries to conceive a baby with her embittered husband Jake (Ned Massey). Meanwhile, Marcie (Mary Ann Conk) must deal with the impending trial of her husband Richard (who never appears in the play, although he's much talked about) and the actions of her rebellious daughter Lindsey (Tracee Chimo).

None of the characters are particularly likable, worse yet, only one of them is particularly interesting. That's Dori, and the excellent Gallo manages to capture the frustration and loneliness of a woman who seemingly has it all, but lacks what she most desires. A scene in which she comically squeezes the fatty portions of her aging body in an attempt to figure out if she is still attractive is the production's highlight.

Sadly, nothing else really measures up to that moment. Manocherian includes some provocative issues such as embezzlement, underage sex, abortion, and closeted sexuality. However, her dialogue is often forced and stilted, with characters often speaking positions rather than organic dialogue. Every now and then, the playwright manages to score with a witty line, but those moments are few and far between.

Williams possesses a solid presence, but his character is woefully underdeveloped. Kenzie has a few good moments, particularly in her scenes with Gallo, but her overall portrayal is a bit flat. Conk, on the other hand, pushes way too hard and makes Marcie into a caricature. Chimo strikes the right notes as the angry teenager, but doesn't really add anything original to a type we've seen many times before. Massey has the difficult job of making one of the play's most unlikable characters sympathetic, and he doesn't quite succeed.

As a result, the ending of the play doesn't really work. Audience members should feel some sadness in regards to what occurs as a result of Jake's actions. But more than likely, they'll have ceased to care.