Photo by Ken HowardIn the beginning, as now, there was the word—but verily, if the word sucketh—as here—no amount of stagecraft can free it from that suckiness. It's a surprise, too, since the scribe of the comedy A NakedGirlontheAppianWay,Richard Greenberg, is a Pulitzer Prize finalist for Three DaysofRainand won a Best Play Tony Award for 2003's Take MeOut.Then again, Broadway used to shower Neil Simon with Tonys, too, and Naked Girl,which world-premiered last Friday at SCR's Segerstrom Stage and will stick around till May 8, is basically a Neil Simon play with a lot of teasing about incest. You've got to hand it to Greenberg, though: it takes some shameless chutzpah to wittify Simonishly around such material. He certainly did his job—the opening-night crowd fucking loved it, really—but Simon plus incest is one unlovely pairing, and Greenberg frankly ought to be ashamed of himself.
The play begins with the tasteful touches that remind the mainstage SCR audience that it's among friends: an isn't-that-divine living room in the Hamptons, French pop music playing over the speakers, and a middle-aged couple (played trouperishly by John de Lancie and Linda Gehringer) who are cultured (she's a Food Network cookbook writer; he's a rich businessman writing a book called BusinessandArt:AnUnlikelyInterface)and talk in the kind of grandly rounded witty sentences spoken only in Neil Simon plays.
They're fabulously successful and happy, and they're waiting for their three adult children to arrive, two of whom have just returned from a 15-month wanderjarhre in Europe, where, unbeknownst to their parents, they have fallen in love and started fucking! Let the hijinks begin. Bro (played way too broad by Terrence Riordan) and sis (Dawn-Lyen Gardner, way too snarky) aren't committing real incest: they're adopted, and you'd think at least sis, who went to Radcliffe, would get the fact that the folks are a little distressed, but no, they not only naively expect the 'rents to approve, but also want to move back in! Add a third sibling, a bisexual whiner (James Yaegashi) who's secretly in love with brother and sister; a crotchety neighbor (Ann Guilbert) who keeps calling her daughter "you dumb bitch!"; some late lame revelations about lesbianism; and a predictable we're-just-one-happy-family ending, and you've got everything you need to throw up.
A NAKED GIRL ON THE APPIAN WAY ON THE SEGERSTROM STAGE, SOUTH COAST REPERTORY, 655 TOWN CENTER DR., COSTA MESA, (714) 708-5555. TUES.-FRI., 8 P.M.; SAT., 2:30 & 8 P.M.; SUN., 2:30 & 7:30 P.M. THROUGH MAY 8. $19-$56.