Magazine article Variety

The Layover

Magazine article Variety

The Layover

Article excerpt

The Layover

THEATER REVIEW / OFF-BROADWAY

Theater: Second Stage; 296 seats; $75 top

Playwright: Leslye Headland

Starring: Annie Parisse, Adam Rothenberg

Leslye Headland's attempt to write a neo-noir erotic thriller (think "Body Heat") comes up lame in "The Layover." Despite the fine sexual chemistry generated by Annie Parisse and Adam Rothenberg as strangers who connect when their plane is grounded in Chicago by a snowstorm, the play can't overcome the scribe's clumsy reworking of the vintage formula. Lacking the plot thrills of the genre, this half-baked erotic teaser is no more than mildly entertaining.

The slick design work is par for a Second Stage main-stage production. Cast in luminous night shades by Japhy Weideman's lighting, Mark Wendland's set uses translucent screens to create snowbound scene settings of airport lounges, airport food courts, airport hotels, and cozy business-class airline seats - all conducive to a bit of casual sex between strangers.

Lest we miss the point, the back wall of the set is cut into small rectangular screens resembling film strips that video designer Jeff Sugg has filled with love scenes between tarnished heroes and femmes fatales from memorable noirs of the '40s and '50s. Oh, look, there's Bogart and Mary Astor in "The Maltese Falcon," and here comes a string of dangerous dames like Ruth Roman, Lisbeth Scott, and Veronica Lake, bent on seducing lovesick saps like Glenn Ford and Alan Ladd.

Shellie (the divine Parisse) and Dex (Rothenberg, oozing charm) aren't exactly Bogie and Baby, but they suit one another quite nicely when they find themselves grounded at O'Hare on Thanksgiving. She's a college teacher of American crime fiction, and has the noir sensibility and vocabulary to carry off her odd profession. He's an engineer who works in boring San Diego, but knows from noir literary touchstones like "L.A. Confidential" and "The Black Dahlia."

Anyone who has seen Headland's play and film "Bachelorette" in any of its iterations is familiar with the playwright's whiplash tongue, which makes her a whiz at acerbic cosmopolitan chitchat. The dialogue she's written for these would-be lovers is quite sexy. "I absolutely lust for loneliness," Shellie tells Dex when he informs her he's getting married because he's afraid of spending his life alone. "I want to be the one who understands you - right now," he tells her when she admits to feeling misunderstood. No wonder these two fall into one another's arms when American Airlines offers them a free overnight at the Marriott. …

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