BWW Reviews: DEDALUS LOUNGE In Need of Revisions
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by Jena Tesse Fox
Somewhere at the intersection of Conor McPherson (drunk Irish people sit around and talk about their problems) and James Joyce (drunk Irish people sit around and think about the fascinating minutiae of everyday life) is Gary Duggan’s drama Dedalus Lounge, which opened tonight at Interart Annex on 52nd Street and 10th Ave. after a run at the Dublin Fringe Festival several years back.
The play-with-music follows three young Dubliners as they figure out their lives during the holiday season. Danny (Anthony Rapp), Delphine (Dee Roscioli) and Daragh (James Kautz) were all apparently friends in college, but ten years later (or so), none of them have accomplished their dreams, and none of them is very happy. They gather at the eponymous bar (a reference, we can assume, to Stephen Dedalus of Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man) to find some kind of connection, but only seem to illustrate how far apart from one another they really are.
And that’s about it. Character studies can make for fascinating drama if handled right, but Duggan’s script is too heavy-handed and awkward to make us care about his trio. Many of the character points exist “for some reason,” not because they are dramatic or because they move the story along. For some reason, Danny wants to launch a Freddie Mercury tribute band. (To be fair, the world could probably use a good Freddie Mercury tribute band, and the character’s love of Queen gives Rapp an excuse to sing songs he wrote for the show, all of which are highlights of the evening). For some reason, Delphine is obsessed by her grandmother’s history, even though it barely seems to impact her own life. Several long monologues tell us about the characters and their many issues, but Duggan rarely shows us a real dramatic arc. And worse, when characters reveal major plot points, there’s no reaction from the others. It’s the theatrical equivalent of lighting a firework and watching the spark fizzle before the anticipated pop.
Another major problem with Duggan’s script is that there is no reason for these three friends to be friends. They have precious little in common and only seem to be together for lack of something better to do, giving us little reason to care about their relationships as duos or as a trio.
Fortunately, if their material isn’t the strongest, the three leads have plenty of charisma to generate some energy onstage, and to keep their monologues interesting. Rapp nicely conveys his character’s increasing confusion and frustration, and his occasional explosions of song feel like much-needed escapes from reality. Roscioli finds some good emotion as the upwardly mobile Delphine, unhappy with her life but making the most of what she has. And Kautz, playing the proverbial Angry Young Man, is full of bluster and charm, even if his character is little more than a cliché. (It’s a pity, too. Given stronger material, one gets the feeling that Kautz could really shine.) As bartenders and other characters in the hearts and minds of the main trio, Heather Phillips and Curtis Howard dance beautifully and express a world of emotions without a word. (JoAnn Hunter's graceful choreography speaks volumes.) Chris Henry’s direction is capable if not particularly exciting; he keeps the story moving along, which is an accomplishment when so little seems to happen.
While Dedalus Lounge may have echoes of Joyce and McPherson, Duggan’s script needs some revisions before it can become all it might be. Despair and desperation can make great drama, but he needs to find a stronger connection for his characters if we’re going to care about them or their friendship.