The only true infidelity in John Dooley's new play at the Promenade Theatre is that of the author breaking the bond with his audience. Dooley's High Infidelity is billed as a comedy, but the laughs are painfully few and far between.
A wreck rather than a star vehicle, the play is nonetheless tailored to its two leads, John Davidson and Morgan Fairchild. He plays a U.S. senator who would just as soon chase a skirt as the presidency--and who, apparently, is bent upon doing both. She plays his hurt and angry wife. You're probably thinking Bill and Hillary right now. Hey, at least you're thinking! John Dooley obviously wasn't. When the funniest moment of the play involves Davidson falling out of a plastic blow-up chair, you know you're in a for a long evening.
The plot turns on two axes, the first being the maritial woes of the senator and his wife, the other the supposedly resonant battle of the sexes between their therapist (Neil Maffin) and his female associate (Jennifer Roszell). If only one of these plots worked, the play might not be such a tiresome exercise. As it stands, it is neither political satire nor social comedy. And what little there is in the way of political humor is tepid in the extreme; The President's Analyst was a hit, hip movie in the late 1960s, but this play--though set in the mid-'70s, and produced more than 30 years after the James Coburn film--has the exceedingly ripe smell of the 1950s about it. (Even then, it wouldn't have been good theater.)
Harrison Williams' pedestrian set for the marriage clinic attended by the senator and his wife establishes the tone for the play that follows. The couple make lame attempts to crack wise at each other as they fight during their session. They also try to seduce their medical help. But don't expect sparks or chemistry, and certainly not laughter. Only John Davidson among the four leads carries his weight; he's entirely credible as a glad-handing, egocentric, yet charismatic presidential candidate. In addition to some suprisingly good physical comedy, Davidson struts and preens while also managing to give a touch of depth to his character--particularly in one serious scene in the second act. But he's working in a vacuum.
Morgan Fairchild looks terrific. We were sitting down front in the third row, and we could see that there wasn't a line on her face. Unfortunately, there wasn`t a line coming out of her mouth worth hearing. She struts and preens, too, but you never sense a genuine character beneath the surface. To be fair, hers is arguably the worst written role in the play.
The other two leads aren't comic actors, and therefore fail to unearth any humor in their roles. Daniel Ziskie, who plays a secret service agent protecting the senator, is the only other actor besides Davidson who understands that a play this silly has to be pushed to its cartoon limits. He gives a solid, funny performance despite being saddled with hemmorhoid jokes.
Luke Yankee directs this turkey with little stuffing and less basting; he hasn't given his actors much help in terms of extra funny business to play, nor has he brought any style to the proceedings. There are worse productions in New York than High Infidelity, but not at theaters as prominent as the Promenade.