Rumor was, the first Cabaret Theatre show of Millbrook Playhouse's 45th season, "The Foreigner," would be a tough comedic act to follow. The small cast of "Rebound & Gagged" has no trouble meeting that challenge, though.
Not only is this adult comedy hilarious, it also is bittersweet and refreshingly honest. The set was simple, the emotions and relationships complicated, and the humor ranged from broad to sarcastic to satirical.
Anybody who has been in a relationship that didn't end mutually, or anybody who has attended and graduated from college can identify with the three main characters in this show.
Tessa Zugmeyer as Cooper and Max B. Bunzel as Kyle share a moment in the comedy “Rebound and Gagged” in the Millbrook Playhouse Cabaret this weekend and next week.
PHOTO BY MATTHEW DeSANTIS
Kyle, played by Max B. Bunzel, agonizes over being dumped at 28 years of age, wallowing in his self-pity and allowing his perpetually immature best friend, Jase, played by Nico Evers-Swindell, to lead him astray with shallow advice.
While Kyle is re-enacting with sock puppets (!) various scenes from his late relationship and break-up and falling deeper into depression, Jase is focused on getting drunk and attempting to revive childhood traditions. Meanwhile, Kyle's female roommate, Cooper, is also struggling with her age and feelings of inadequacy and failure, heading her toward a mental breakdown of her own.
Cooper pretends to be engaged to Kyle and creates a fictitious job to flaunt at weddings and other social gatherings, around the same time Jase lectures Kyle on the finer points and strategies of rebounding. Buckshot or sniper method, Jase offers, but Kyle fails repeatedly at having a brief but physically intimate relationship
Just as Cooper meets a guy who might be able to restore her self-confidence, Kyle believes he has found the key to successfully rebounding, with... Cooper?
Jase provides comedic relief throughout the show, every time Kyle or Cooper's self-pity becomes a tad bit too heavy. He achieves this through really bad dancing, amazingly realistic lizard impressions, "bringing back the 10" (sort of like a high five, but with both hands) and being a little slow to catch on sometimes. Evers-Swindell is a natural in this role, easily borrowing traits from several popular contemporary characters - Joey from the TV show "Friends," Kramer from the TV show "Seinfeld" and Van Wilder from the "National Lampoon" movies- and transforming them into his own special blend of funny.
Jase's antics aren't even really necessary, though, which makes them all that much better. Despite the sober and weighty undertones throughout much of the show, there is quite a bit of satirical humor present in Cooper's quick wit and Kyle's internal war between his morals and his id.
Bunzel, a first-timer at Millbrook, is very believable as the nice guy whose heart was trampled upon. He's particularly convincing during his monologues, when he speaks directly to the audience about the issues he's struggling with and the lessons he's learning. Those monologues delightfully mimic those of Freddie Prinze Jr.'s character in the 2000 movie "Down To You."
Another actor new to Millbrook's stage, Tessa Zugmeyer, is right on as Cooper, portraying the character as a no-muss, no-fuss kind of girl. This slightly contradicts Cooper's artistic side (she's a wannabe photographer), but Zugmeyer allows the character's sensitivity to shine through toward the end of the show.
Both Matthew Johnson (who also played the lead in "The Foreigner") and Kristi McCarson (Mary in "Run For Your Wife" last year) gracefully switch from minor role to minor role, several times each, throughout the play.
This show is perfectly geared toward 20- and 30-somethings, mainly because of its cultural references. Older audience members probably still could enjoy the show for its timeless lessons about relationships, but I definitely wouldn't recommend taking anyone under 18. Expletives are used heavily, though they don't detract from the entertainment value of the show, and a lot of alcoholic beverages are consumed throughout the plot. Sexual topics are discussed several times as well, though not in any sort of graphic detail. If this were a TV show or movie, it would probably receive a rating of TV-14 or R.
Although "Rebound and Gagged" is more than two hours long, it doesn't drag at any point. In fact, I was quite shocked when I checked the time at the end of the show, which had started at 8 p.m., and found the minutes had fled by until it was actually 10:15 p.m.
Kudos to Jacquelyn D. Marolt, scenic designer, for a simplistic design. This allows the audience to focus on the action and, more importantly, the emotions. The center-stage set remained the same throughout the entire show, and only minimal changes - and minimal props - were required for the smaller sets to the left and right.
Since several scenes were set at weddings, proper attire was required - and Nina M. Bova, costume designer, delivered. Most of Cooper's bridesmaid dresses were hideous '80's throwbacks, much more comical than more contemporary styles would have been. And the tux Jase wore to the only wedding he attended was hilarious - the pants were tight and too short, the jacket was tight and sleeves too short, and the final touch was the retro-yet-ugly ruffles on the chest of the shirt. (You have to see it to believe it!)
"Rebound & Gagged" will leave you feeling sympathetic to Kyle's and Cooper's troubles, a little nostalgic and all laughed out. Perhaps one of the first shows written for Generation Y, there are very few disappointments in Millbrook Playhouse's rendition.
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"Rebound & Gagged" runs through Sunday and for a second week, July 9-13. Curtain times are 8 p.m. every night but Sundays when the shows start at 7 p.m. For ticket information and reservations, visit www.millbrookplayhouse.com or call the box office at 748-8083.