Raven Theatre. By Tim Joyce. Dir. Chuck Spencer. With Tim Joyce, Christa Trinler, Christopher Scheithe.
One technique that avant-garde hero Richard Foreman uses to generate his surreal texts is writing dialogue that has the structure of jokes but isn’t actually funny. Tim Joyce seems to have taken Foreman’s technique to heart here. Set in a diner that doubles as an outpatient treatment center for obsessives, Joyce’s play offers twin acts, each centering upon a novel dramatic theme: the midlife crisis and the unfulfilled artist. Along the way, we’re treated to a series of intriguing revelations: African-American waitresses are sassy, Greek diner owners temperamental, and aging white guys unhappy with their lot as aging white guys. The first act opens with an extended discussion of parking styles: Uptight Steve (Scheithe) parks far away, while freewheeling Pat (Joyce) risks driving right up to the diner. Jerry Seinfeld has a lot to answer for.
It’s all the more disheartening to see a relatively gifted cast work with such uninspired material. Joyce and Scheithe build a genuine rapport, though Western Union must turn a handsome profit on the punchlines they’re telegraphing. Spencer’s direction keeps things moving at a lively clip. But what do you know: Turns out, comedy isn’t all in the timing.—John Beer