If a play billed as a comedy isn't particularly funny but the dramatic elements are satisfying enough, who do you blame? The playwright for not adding enough jokes? Or the theater's marketing department for misrepresenting what's essentially a drama?
That's the question hanging over Last Weekend, an original "comedy" by Amanda DeMaio now running at Stages in Fullerton.
The play is set at a beach house on the Jersey shore, as a group of former high school friends reunite over a Fourth of July weekend. During the course of a single fast-paced evening, two secret crushes are revealed, a former romance comes out, and someone armed only with a 5-iron catches a good-sized fish.
That last example illustrates the shortcomings of this peculiar "comedy": rather than being funny or even oddly absurd, it winds up distracting us from the earnest, non-comic attempt of Gell (Frank Tryon) to reveal his hidden feelings for a friend.
Director Tiina Wiles wisely keeps her actors busy, which prevents the small stage from feeling claustrophobic. There isn't a weak link in her cast; Kara Knappe's Emma shines particularly bright as she slowly learns unpleasant truths about herself over the weekend. Also of note is Melanie Baker's Kris, who enters loud and overbearing and leaves the play sweet and sympathetic.
What we have here is a drama— featuring likable characters in a tangle of relationships—masquerading as a comedy. That's fine if you walk into the theater expecting a relationship drama with minor comic elements. But don't bother bandaging your sides to keep them from splitting.
Last Weekend at Stages, 400 E. Commonwealth, Ste. 4, Fullerton, (714) 525-4484. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m. Through June 25. $12.