Too many concepts, not enough focus

By Donald V. Calamia

There's no doubt in my mind that one of the most creative souls working today in the local theater community is Mike McGettigan. With three recent Wilde Awards and a handful of nominations already under his belt, every production this young improviser, actor, writer and director mounts is a "must-see" event. After all, who else will conceive a play that takes three consecutive weekends to unfold - and then pack the theater for all three episodes? And who else will open and close a season with a two-part tale?

But as Neil Simon, Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber can attest, a string of past smash hits does not guarantee the quality of the next. And that pretty much describes McGettigan's latest work, the eagerly anticipated, but not totally successful "Desperate Losers, Part One: Not Safe for Work."

Set in Detroit in the not-too-distant 2012, author/director McGettigan explores an America that seems closer to a dictatorship than a democracy, yet the self-indulgent slackers, wannabes and corporate ladder climbers don't seem to notice. Or care.

And neither did I, quite honestly - mostly because of the underdeveloped plot that gets bogged down in time-consuming (and sometimes unnecessary) character development, and eight losers who, last Saturday night, didn't elicit a single drop of empathy from this cranky critic.

Plus, I'm not a fan of lazy writing that replaces smart, snappy, insightful dialogue with senseless profanity simply to elicit cheap laughs.

What could have been a seductive political satire gets lost in the details, as McGettigan offers little to explain the changes to America over the next five years. Nor do the set and props convey any technological advancement. (Except for a few items, the apartment looks more like 1962, 1972 or 1982 than 2012.)

And WHOSE story is being told isn't totally clear until the second act, as too many characters fight for equal time.

Many of McGettigan's little touches are superb, however. And his cast? Chuck Reynolds, Dax Anderson and Patrick Cronin (in two well-executed roles) are especially fine.

MINI-REVIEW:

'Desperate Losers, Part One: NSW'

A Fevered Egos production in association with The Abreact at The Zeitgeist, 2661 Michigan Ave., Detroit. Fri.-Sat., through Oct. 20. Tickets: $10. For information: 313-247-5270 or http://www.zeitgeistdetroit.org

The Bottom Line: The ingredients for an excellent show are there, but the recipe needs work.

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