"GRANDMA Duck Is Dead" is a slight, sweet-natured early comedy about collegiate pranks by the late Larry Shue, author of "The Foreigner." This little-known one-act is performed at the Warehouse Rep with an engaging ingenuousness by the So Far Theater Company, a promising young comic theater group.
It is 1968, the eve of commencement, and Woody, a senior, is trying in vain to hunt-and- peck his final paper, but he's easily distracted by his band of merry pranksters, who gather in his dumpy dorm room for a semi-sweet farewell. It's goodbye to all that: The '60s are passing, and tomorrow, some of the guys are off to war, some to marriage or work. So for one last time they take refuge in their insular society, devoted to time-killing, silliness and messing with people's minds.
Woody has a knack for hypnotizing his black buddy Tim Esperanza, and though the trick backfired disturbingly once before, the guys coax Woody into doing it once more, leading to a hilarious scene in which Esperanza becomes Beatle Ringo Starr with Liverpudlian aplomb. But the hypnosis gets out of hand -- these kids are playing with things they don't understand -- and there's a moment of real fright and confusion, a premonition of what awaits them Out There.
Though "Grandma Duck" is weak in spots and pokes along before getting off the ground, Shue's imagination and affection for his characters permeate the piece, recapturing the endless inventiveness of smart-aleck college kids and their sweetly sick humor.
Director Jim Mumford gets relaxed, natural performances from his cast, led by Mark Silence as Woody, Shue's gentle alter ego. Moonfaced Michael John Lindsay's impish Badger lives up to his name, but as his party- pooping girlfriend Pooh, Monica R. Lijewski seems a mite tense.
The standout is comedian Tony Perkins who makes an assured stage debut as Esperanza. Joseph B. Musumeci Jr. affably plays Woody's roommate, a gentle jock the gang has renamed Ben Davidson. Musumeci also designed the convincingly slovenly dorm room set, littered with comics, condoms and Cliff Notes.
GRANDMA DUCK IS DEAD -- Presented by So Far Theater Company at Source Theater Warehouse Rep through March 16.