There are several truly funny lines scattered about in Kyle Baxter's "bromantic" comedy, Never Norman Rockwell, at the Beckett Theater. However, an uneven cast and some clunky playwriting threaten to derail this modestly charming piece.
Things start off well as lovers Mark (DR Mann Hanson) and Jack (Austin Mitchell) banter about the latter's video gaming habits and comic book collecting. The two have been sleeping together off and on for about a year, although the closeted Jack has been reluctant to call it dating. In fact, Jack might very well have a crush on his straight roommate Dan (Dan Belmont), who is about to get married.
Complications ensue once Mark is revealed to be the brother of Dan's fiancée Shelly (Sarah Barry). Also added into the mix are Mark and Shelley's father George (Michael Selkirk) and Dan's parents Blanche (Elizabeth Allerton) and Fred (Paul Bellantoni). Unfortunately, of these supporting players, only Selkirk manages to make a favorable impression.
The play is at its best when exploring the mixed emotions that Dan feels. He's long suspected his friend was gay, so he's on the one hand glad that Jack has finally confided in him, but simultaneously angry that it's taken him this long to do it, and that the news takes focus from Dan's impending nuptials. Belmont handles Dan's shifting moods well and nicely milks the comedy out of the script. Meanwhile, Mitchell has a good rapport with both of his leading men, and the production tends to drag a bit whenever he's not onstage.
Director Anthony Gargano could do more to smooth transitions. And while some of Baxter's dialogue has zip, too much of it feels forced. In particular, when the playwright finally gets around to using the play's title in the actual lines, it feels unnecessarily awkward.
-- Dan Bacalzo