Diana, one of two characters in "Save the Leopard," can't give a gift without bragging about her trust fund. She talks incessantly about her fabulous job as a "communication strategist." She tells Leo, a guy she went out with one time, that he used to act "like a puppy trying to rub up against me." And when she somehow gets Leo to move in with her, Diana stops her birth control, gets pregnant, then buys her own ring and demands that he propose. Because, she told him earlier, "I couldn't see you not wanting to marry me!" Annoyed yet?
Well, you get two hours of Diana (Alison Weisgall) in "Save the Leopard," a drama by Washington Shakespeare Company founding artistic director T.J. Edwards that's being premiered by the new Spooky Action Theater. "Save the Leopard" spans 10 years, starting with the blind date that set up thoroughly Type A Diana with Leo (Seth Alcorn), then a California surfer dude with little cash and less ambition. Noting Leo's name as well as his passing mention of an interest in animals, Diana buys him a book on leopards. Which turns him into an animal-conservation zealot.
"Save the Leopard" is allegedly about Diana and Leo's opposites-attract romance, but really it's a diatribe disguised as a play. After sporadically running into each other every year or so -- with Leo getting more passionate about his cause as time goes by -- the pair eventually team up, with Diana's PR firm helping to fund Leo's mission. Once the couple is united, however unrealistically, in the fight to save leopards, Edwards takes the opportunity to have each vomit statistics on extinctions and other environmental issues in the form of several speeches to various boards.
If Diana's egotistical logorrhea doesn't give you a headache, the numbers will.
And if you tune out the lecturing, there's not a whole lot left. Diana and Leo's attraction is never believable, not just because they're so extremely different but also because when you strip away the one-notes that define them, there aren't any personalities underneath. Weisgall, to be fair, is thoroughly convincing as a single-minded go-getter. And though it's more difficult to buy Alcorn as an ardent environmentalist, his earlier portrayal of a West Coast flake -- "I'm kind of searching? For my calling?" Leo tells his date -- is both funny and on-the-nose. But there's never any spark between them, nor, unfortunately, any terribly likable quality in either character.
Staged at Flashpoint's black-box Mead Theatre Lab, the production is bare-bones. Only two boxes, sometimes pushed together to form a bench or stacked to become a lectern, decorate the stage, and though there are a couple of props, mostly the actors mime actions such as taking a drink or . . . well, sometimes it's not clear what they're doing. Occasionally, sound effects such as a door slam or a baby's gurgle help things out.
And there's one auditory assist that Spooky Action seems to think is essential. When the lights go down and the actors are about to take their bows, it's okay if you're not yet clapping, because there's recorded applause.
Save the Leopard, by T.J. Edwards. Directed by Richard Henrich. Stage manager, Kristen J. Bishel; lighting and sound, Jason Cowperthwaite. Approximately two hours. Through Nov. 6 at the Mead Theatre Lab at Flashpoint, 916 G St. NW. Call 800-494-8497 or visit www.spookyaction.org.