Duane Cooper, Andy Lutz, and Curran Connor
in Two-Man Kidnapping Rule
(© Ryan Wijayaratne)
Duane Cooper, Andy Lutz, and Curran Connor
in Two-Man Kidnapping Rule
(© Ryan Wijayaratne)
"You get three great loves," Vincent informs his best friend Jack. "First love. The one who got away. And the love of your life." In Joseph Gallo's new comedy, Two-Man Kidnapping Rule, at the New Ohio Theatre, Jack is determined to prove that his former girlfriend Laura is in the latter category. However, Laura dumped Jack more than a year ago and is about to marry another man. And Vincent is out to set Jack straight, in the form of an intervention that gives the play its title.

While it's a set-up that promises laughs and suspense, Gallo delivers too little of each. For this story to be more compelling, it would help if we did believe that there was some chance for Jack and Laura to reconcile.

But there's evidence early on--a Valentine's message that kind of sounds like a farewell, a cute gift that reeks of negative judgment--that the deep connection between the two is a product of Jack's imagination. And there's very little to counter that as the play progresses. Which means there's very little dramatic conflict to carry our interest.

True, Jack's relationship with his ex isn't the only one in the spotlight. There are also his close friendships with his three longtime buddies. Their circle has withstood high school, college, and several years beyond. But now it's being torn apart by impending marriages. We never even meet one of the four guys, who's already pretty much flown the coop as he prepares for his bachelor party. So there's little suspense over that plot point either.

Not that there isn't some pleasure watching the actors at work. Director Robin A. Paterson keeps the pacing tight, with lines of dialogue overlapping comically, and hilarious bits of business unfolding, much of it involving cell phones. (The effective sound design is by Craig Lenti.)

Curran Connor has a steady, grounding presence as Jack and is believable as both a former football player and as a lovelorn loser. Duane Cooper is appropriately sexy and infuriating as Vincent, the man-boy who is desperately trying to keep the circle together. And Andy Lutz is sensitive and funny as Seth, another one heading for the altar, although he overplays drunkenness in an otherwise humorous scene set in the men's room of a pickup bar.

In the end, the work is a surprisingly conventional play, but not one that is well-made enough or dramatically fulfilling, ending up leaving audiences feeling as if they have watched an extended sketch.