Diorama? What diorama? If the word “diorama” were not mentioned once in this fragmentary wisp of a play being offered right here in somewhat prestigious Theatre Row, there would be no rationale for labeling anything going on in the Lion Theatre as a diorama. A diorama presents an obvious simulacrum of life at some period. The closest thing here is a simulacrum of a simulacrum. With embellishments by authors Jennifer Brown Stone and David S. Stone that took over whatever concept they had, presumably something to do with when a loony tune becomes a flat out loon and how to tell the difference. This is dangerous territory for experienced authors. The authors have rushed in.
In spite of the fierce work by some good performers, we must grant that co-author/director David S. Stone is not helped by having to stage his confused play amid the woefully inadequate, hapless setting crowding the Lion stage. You never know quite where you are or supposed to be, and all of it is right there all the time. From the beginning, when a make out couple tries to get out of our sight as fast as they can and are never referred to again, we are there, right there, wherever that is. Turns out that initially it is the restoration room of some nameless museum where desperately cute Cecily (Susan Louise O’Connor), fey beyond belief, an inescapably aging waif, still floppily adolescent as if it were a permanent condition, has been living – well, squatting – thanks to the big heart and fat head of Denny (Bob Greenberg) whose uniform tells us he is a security guard in that weird establishment. (We get the weirdness from the enshrined objects in the lighted walls. To be restored? One can only wonder.)
Cecily is nevertheless getting the heave ho. She takes her happiness god – it’s wearing her bra – and her whimsies to her sister Janey’s (Melissa Macleod Herion), who has a perfectly conventional apartment – as far as we can tell – and is herself an attractive, conventional, marriage fixated lass, at the moment trying to convince her date Tom (Alberto Bonilla) of his need for their relationship to be permanent. Tom is, however, fixated on her high heeled shoes. He tries them on. They fit. He leaves, taking the shoes with him. Stressed Janey cannot cope with sister Cecily but Cecily is homeless and what can you do. Cecily is also endlessly artistically creative. From egg cartons, milk cartons and umbrellas, she turns Janey’s make out couch into an igloo. (Overhead, a screen throws an image of an igloo’s roof. Why, we never know.) It’s a magic igloo? Once you enter.
But Janey does not enter. She throws a fit. Yet the igloo stays. (Maybe we should call the play Cecily’s igloo? Maybe we should butt out.) Only after Janey has found her true love and future husband Elliot (Hunter Canning) does she attack the igloo viciously, when Elliot turns out to fall for all of Cecily’s adorabilities, her whimsies, cannot get enough of her cutesies. And Cecily isn’t even trying. Except to us, of course, the audience. Who find her plenty trying. Is there a happy ending to all this? Have you a single doubt on where it will all go and how it will get there? Well, throw in an igloo and you’re right. And that is not a “spoiler.”
Melissa Macleod Herion as Janey does good work, looks good, sounds good, tries very, very hard. Hunter Canning, Elliot, is even astonishing in his ability to accommodate to whimsy while remaining reasonably unscathed. Alberto Bonilla (of Tom with the dancing feet) turns out okay. And Cecily, Susan Louise O’Connor, the kookie catalyst? She’d have gotten away with her meshugas ten years earlier. Not that it would have made any difference. It’s still the play. And that damn set. Did I mention the lighting? Hmmm. You know, maybe you ought to see for yourself. It’s only 80 minutes. And think of the fun you’ll have afterward over Chinese food.
The Diorama (through June 14, 2014)
Lion Theatre, Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-714-2442 or visit http://www.telecharge.com
Running time: 80 minutes with no intermission