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Secondary Pitch

Phoebe Leonard, Larry Phillips, Peter Buck Dettman, Ryan Dusek    

                                                      by Eugene Paul

Stephen Dowd, yes, THE famous Stephen Dowd, has just finished hanging his famous #28 shirt, expensively framed,  on the wall of the shitty little apartment he is sharing with his two brothers, Paul the Grouch and Kevin the idiot. After all, he owns the place. , he can do what he wants. Sure, the big house is gone and so are his wife and kids. And so is his career, after the injury to his shoulder but something will turn up, he’s famous, maybe this reality show some TV dame is pitching him.  The divorce is killing him, he’s broke, blah, blah, blah. Maybe he should be more like his freak show kid brother, not a worry in the world, no job, no talent, positive he’s going to  get on TV, those “you got talent” shows and be famous, like him. Cripes. And Paul, sour, bitching all the time. So Paul’s paying the bills, so what? Who paid all the bills in Stephen’s flush times?  Stephen.  Yes, that’s Stephen, not Steve, dammit, Stephen. Time for another beer.

And we’re in Larry Phillips’ play, just like that with the Dowd brothers awaiting the arrival of Meredith, to pitch the Dowd family reality show at them.  There’s only one problem:  Stephen will doubtless do the show and Kevin can’t wait to get on the show, but Paul – Paul is not playing ball, you might say. He won’t have anything to do with anything to do with Stephen or baseball. He won’t even be there to hear how much money they can make. He is not interested in money he is not interested in reality TV he is jut not interested in any of it and that’s that. 

                                                              courtesy of Randomly Specific Theater.

Which, in a way, is the problem.  Larry Phillips, the playwright, who is also playing Paul the non participant,  has set up a situation describing it in terms which resonate all too tellingly with a good many people who go to the theater and do not even consider watching “reality’ TV.  True, there are millions of others who do follow the genre, but they’re home watching. They are not here. So that when Meredith shows up, all svelte, sweetness and light and makes her pitch, it has all the charismatic effect of a punctured balloon.  There’s no there there.  Until she insists that Paul must also sign and be part of the show or there’s no show.

Huh?  What? What’s going on here? Our TV show about a TV show has just hit a spark of interest. We’’ve got some theatrical conflict? How is this going to play out?

Hmmm. There’s Paul, bright, smiling,   relaxed, coaching a little league game, and there’s this cute babe just happened by to watch the kids because they’re so cute.  And who is this pleasant, knowledgeable about baseball girl?  Why, it’s Meredith, meeting cute with nice guy Paul. And we’re back to TV. Yes, but – what’s going to happen?  When Paul finds out?  He can’t possibly be persuaded after he finds out about Meredith.  Can he?

Although playwright Phillips may not have a play here he has chosen to tell a cinematic story told cinematically, and since television feeds on itself these days, why not this show?  Might he have focused more on Meredith and developed a compelling character study of the stresses and directions of an ambitious, smart, attractive woman and her life and career choices?  Could he have developed a complete portrait of a natural athlete and what fame does to him?  Might he have found the darker story of a gifted athlete who just couldn’t bring himself to find the ego in himself to compete? Or is there a story in a happy-go-lucky doofus believing in the power of magical thinking and having it come true? And what if you have all these stories and try to combine them in one piece, what do you have?

You have more than director Matthew J. Nichols attempts to handle.  He has not chosen a direction for the playwright’s potential, he has simply staged a budding work in less than optimum circumstances. But he’s made one interesting casting choice, casting Dusek as Stephen for his softness.  However, if Ryan Dusek were to play Paul, and if Larry Phillips, who plays Paul were to play Stephen, would the play come closer to the author’s intention? Phoebe Leonard is just fine as Meredith and Peter Buck Dettman is having a wonderful time being Kevin, right down to the beads in his beard. We may see Secondary Pitch come at bat again.                                         

Secondary Pitch. At the Bridge Theater, 244 West 54th Street, 12th floor. Tickets: $20 at box office or 90 min. Thru Oct 25.