Paul suggests that Andrew’s life might be better if he had that talk with Renee about her incessant nagging during sex. Andrew recommends that David start playing an online Scrabble game called Words With Friends. David’s husband Nick offers his own helpful advice to Julie, who then passes on her own self-help tip to Janetta.

If you think that all these well-meaning suggestions will lead to anything good, think again. As one character explains to another, the so-called “Boomerang Effect” promises that just the opposite will come to pass. You may mean well, but you will end up screwing up the world.

Five couples learn the truth of The Boomerang Effect in Matthew Leavitt’s clever, perceptive, laugh-out-out funny World Premiere comedy entitled (you guessed it) The Boomerang Effect, now a guest production at West L.A.’s The Odyssey Theatre.

We meet each couple one by one on John Iacovelli’s terrifically designed and appointed bedroom set, then double back like a boomerang in reverse order, as each twosome learns a helpful life lesson—to hilarious effect.

  Chapter 1: The Birthday Present, starring Paul (Luke McClure) and Stephanie (Kim Hamilton)

Stephanie has just completed Paul’s annual Birthday Blowjob when she launches into yet another nag session about being in a relationship with a fully-grown child who doesn’t care about wasting his potential with a go-nowhere job at Trader Joe’s and an obsession with online Fantasy Football. Paul responds with his own complaint: Since Stephanie has quit smoking, she’s been nagging him night and day. Once Paul has learned the reason his high-achiever of a girlfriend has finally kicked the habit, The Boomerang Effect segues into Chapter 2, thereby laying the groundwork for the play’s final scene, one which boomerangs us back to where it all started.

  Chapter 2: Pillow Talk, starring Andrew (Will Christoferson) and Renee (Tiffany Lonsdale)

After finally getting her zipperless boots pulled off her aching feet (a prerequisite for lovemaking), Andrew’s gorgeous British girlfriend Renee starts in on what appears to be a nightly ritual for her—finding things to complain about during sex. (Tonight it’s the gunk in Andrew’s eye and the holes in his shirt that get things going.) Taking his friend Paul’s advice, Andrew decides it’s time to ask Renee to for God’s sake concentrate on the sex they’re having while they’re having it instead of constantly finding other things to bring up—to which Renee responds, “Only an idiot would listen to Paul. He works at Trader Joe’s!”

 Chapter 3: Words With Friends, starring David (Jonathan Slavin) and Nick (Emerson Collins)

Words With Friends not only happens to be the online game David has taken up at a friend’s suggestion, it’s also his Obsession Of The Month and one of the reasons Nick isn’t in the mood for sex tonight. A more serious problem is out-of-work David’s willingness to let Nick support him as he only halfheartedly sends out a few dozen job application requests. Meanwhile, David has set his sights considerably higher than a boring 9-to-5, either pursuing his lifelong dream of being an actor or studying to become a pastry chef. And so what if goals like these take him as long as five years to achieve, can’t Nick just be a supportive husband, financially and otherwise—and have sex with him like they used to?

 Chapter 4: Des Moines, starring Alexander (Charles Howerton) and Julie (Kat Bailess)

This time The Boomerang Effect’s bedroom set is a hotel room in Des Moines, where 60something business executive Alexander has summoned nubile young secretary Julie to “get some things taken care of,” business-related things she assumes—wrongly, as she soon learns when Alexander barks out an order: “Sleep with me or you’re fired.” Julie’s threat of a lawsuit scarcely phases the exec. “I fired you because you’re a terrible employee, not a team player,” he insists unperturbed, and if she thinks she can win a lawsuit, then she should think again about how much it’s going to cost her to lose. After all, who’s going to believe a plaintiff whose Facebook profile pic has her in a bikini, cocktail glass in hand? Alexander then gives Julie five minutes to decide the rest of her life.

 Chapter 5: The Ignoble Fate Of Timmy The Rabbit, starring Marcus (Joel Bryant) and Janetta (Liza de Weerd)

It’s the morning after a drunken office party has sent coworkers Marcus and Janetta (Julie’s sister) off to a night of hotel sex. Now, if only Marcus can get his clothes on and get out of the room, everything will be fine. Unfortunately, he hasn’t factored Janetta’s feelings into the equation, because what was just a one-night stand for him turns out to be just what Janetta’s been dreaming of, that is until Marcus reveals that he’s a happily married man. Now, if only Marcus can get Janetta to return his wife’s one-of-a-kind necklace, the one that he foolishly gave her last night mid-bang, all will be right with the world. Janetta’s response: Unless Marcus can unfuck her, there’s no way he’s getting the necklace back.

The above synopses offer only a taste of playwright Leavitt’s tasty, tangy battle-of-the-sexes comedy, and only the outward trajectory of the titular boomerang. Add to this ten of the sharpest, brightest performances you’re likely to see this year and tiptop direction by the phenom that is Dámaso Rodriguez, and you come up with not only one of the funniest shows in town, but one that’s likely to set you and your theater date to talking once the lights have come down on our first (and last) couple of lovers.

It’s a particular treat to see five StageSceneLA favorites revealing new aspects of their talents alongside five performers not yet reviewed on these pages doing equally fabulous work. Collins and Hamilton played dumb and butch (in that order and to perfection) in last summer’s The Altruists. Here they are equally memorable in smart and feminine incarnations (again in that order), both share terrific rapport with their scene partners, and Collins once again doffs shirt (for those who care about those things). McClure broke hearts (and won a Scenie) two years ago in Del Shores’ Yellow. He’s as terrific a comedic actor here opposite Hamilton as he was in dramatic mode, and shirtless even longer (for those who care about those things). Collins’ stage husband Slavin provides a textbook example of an actor who takes an already well-written part and imbues it with even more layers and shadings than on the printed page. Scenie winner de Weerd, having proven her young-Meryl acting chops in dramatic roles, goes screwball here to equally impressive effect opposite Scenie winner Bryant, not only her comic equal but quite a tale-spinner when recounting The Story Of Timmy The Rabbit, and buff-physiqued when shirtless (for those who care about such things). Christoferson and Lonsdale have just the right sitcom-lead-ready looks and chops to nail their pair of scenes, with Christoferson frequently bare-torsoed (for those who care about such things). As for stage vet Howerton (who mostly keeps his shirt on) and sexy petite dynamo Bailess, their May-December unromantic comedy scenes positively crackle with nonsexual sparks that could light a bonfire.

In addition to his way with words, as when Alexander tells sexual harassee Julie, “Look, I’m not the bad guy here,” when he so clearly is, playwright Leavitt gives his characters some breakneck physical comedy, which the Odyssey cast pull off to hilarious effect in Christoferson and Lonsdale’s boot removal sequence, Bryant’s putting-the-clothes-back-on scene, and McClure’s bathroom meltdown, an offstage tantrum which proves that physical comedy can be equally effective when heard but not seen.

Additional hat-tipping goes to the ingenuity with which Leavitt has constructed The Boomerang Effect, the unpredictability of its plotlines, and the inclusion of a couple who just happen to be gay into the mix, a perfect example of marriage/relationship equality.

Though one might wish for a more rainbow-colored ensemble, Rich Delia’s otherwise spot-on casting is accent-blind, with London-born Lonsdale and Mississippi native Bailess getting to play their roles in the English they grew up with despite the parts not having been written specifically British or Southern. (Kudos to the Netherlands-born de Weerd for matching Bailess’s Vicksburg drawl.)

Iacovelli’s spiffy set design has been lit with accustomed expertise and flair by Jared A. Sayeg. T. Ashanti Mozelle’s costumes are ideal choices for each character. Doug Newell gets thumbs up too for his first-rate sound design.

The Boomerang Effect is produced by Shores, Linda Toliver, and Gary Guidinger. Deidre Works is stage manager.

With comedy such a tricky genre to nail, it’s no wonder so many theaters choose to stick with the tried and true—Simon, Ayckbourn, Coward, Rudnick, Shores, Orton, Busch, et al. Village Green Productions merits a tip of the hat for taking a chance on a more-or-less fledgling playwright, a gamble that has paid off quite niftily in a production that guarantees laughs from side-splitting start to uproarious finish.

Odyssey Theatre, 2055 South Sepulveda Boulevard, Los Angeles.

–Steven Stanley
March 30, 2012
Photos: Ed Krieger

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