"Escape," second in the new season of "Visions" plays on public TV, is a sentimental absurdist allegorical farce, with a few choruses of "I'll Get By" thrown in. It gets by, for the most part, just fine' and author Jonathan Reynolds exhibits the satirical instincts of a productive wisearce in this his first play for television.
The "psychological comedy" as PBS bills it, may be too talky, but much of the talk is caustic, considered and funny. Even if the abstract framework doesn't accommodate all of Reynolds' ideas comfortably, the play - at 9 p.m. on Channel 26 - suggests that themes and structures toyed with years ago by Sartre, Ionesco and others can still be given engaging new investigation.
There are only two main characters, and basically they personify brain and brawn. Brian (Robin Gammell) is a white-collared, pseudo-intellectual, sexually vacillating, pedantic old fuddy-duddy. He could perhaps be taken as a symbol of public television.
Brawn (Marc Singer) is a blue-collared, hedonistic, materialistic, popular and attractive dumbhead. He could perhaps be taken as a symbol of commercial television.
What makes the team a witty idea is that each member is a projection of the other's class prejudices; each conforms completely and obligingly to the other's suspicions and wish-fulfillments. Technically, however, they are allied only for the purpose of fleeing a mysterious and relentless Big Brother, who pursues them with gases in various flavors and such insidious tortures as a holocaust of junk mail.
The old man doesn't want to go back to his teaching job at Coppertone Tech; the young one has vague notions of rising above the post of big stud on campus. But the Teaneck Police Department has other ideas. Director Robert Stevens helps keep such details from becoming too woozily whimsical for the play's own good, but it's a pity he couldn't have ordered a few retakes on the multitude of lines flubbed by Gammell.
Both actors wear their roles as comfortably as they wear their assigned outfits - shameless badges to the world of what they represent. Singer is especially funny noshing Quaaludes, ravaging a bologna sandwich, or proving to his partner and nemesis that can tap dance too, just like the old guy. In the end, of course, there is no escape in "Escape," but the flight to nowhere makes a rakish and amusing playwright's prank.