According to a program note, "Backstop!," the new comedy at Source Theatre's Warehouse Rep, began as a monologue, then became a one-act play and finally grew to its current two-act shape. I don't know if anything was lost during these expansions, but frankly, I can't believe much was gained.
"Backstop!," which runs through Aug. 31, is the sort of play that leaves you panting for less.
Authors Marty Lodge and Jeff Peters have written a contrived sitcom about Buddy Bailey, a Baltimore Orioles catcher who's having romantic problems, professional problems, image problems. What's more, in the last game of the playoffs he let a ball dribble through his legs.
The play is set in Gladys' Bar, where Buddy mopes under the protective eye of Gladys herself. He's just blown a speech to the Boy Scouts. His agent is badgering him. And his girlfriend Lena has run off with a New York doctor who writes bestselling diet books.
Before long, however, the doctor shows up in the bar. Then Lena shows up, pregnant. They all get to talking and it turns out they're merely victims of a big misunderstanding! Lena hasn't really been unfaithful to Buddy. She still loves him. She just needed the doctor to bounce a few problems off.
At which point I felt I needed a few tomatoes to bounce off this play.
Besides the fact that its plot is really a nonplot, the greatest problem with "Backstop!" is that Buddy, Lena and the doctor -- the characters making up this ersatz triangle -- are far and away the least interesting creatures on the stage. Whether Buddy gets back with Lena or Lena stays on with the doctor or, for that matter, Buddy, Lena and the doctor all run off and down pin a coladas at the nearest Club Med is a question that will not bother your mind for long.
Fortunately, the sidelines of this comedy are occupied by marginally more entertaining characters -- a singing Cuban busboy (Jorge Abreu), a drunken fan (Stephen Hayes), a pushy agent (William Hollingsworth) and the bar's brassy proprietor (Michaeleen O'Neil). Their antics are overdrawn -- I suspect even the authors sensed there was a hole in the center of their play that wanted filling -- but overdrawn comic relief is at least preferable to wan romance.
Lodge gives an honest enough performance as the baseball player. That doesn't make the character any more appealing, though; it merely makes him honestly boring. Hayes' energy and his percussive rat-a-tat laugh help perk things up, while O'Neil manages to convince us that gum-chewing Gladys, ever ready with a shoulder to lean on, is actually a real person. Now that takes an actress!Backstop! by Marty Lodge and Jeff Peters, directed by Peters. Set, Harold Schablankowitz; lighting, V. Hana Sellers. With Jorge Abreu, Michaeleen O'Neil, Stephen Hayes, William Hollingsworth, Marty Lodge, Rick Foucheux, Micehele Palermo. At the Source Warehouse Rep through Aug. 31.