Little Black Book’ doesn’t live up to its premise at Las Vegas Little Theatre

Empty sex: Tommy Watanabe and April Sauline talk dirty in LVLT’s Little Black Book.
Susannah Smitherman
Jacob Coakley

Two and a half stars

Little Black Book Through May 11; Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m.; $10-$15. Las Vegas Little Theatre, 362-7996.

Las Vegas Little Theatre closes out its latest Fischer Black Box season with the winner of its 2014 New Works Competition: Little Black Book, by Thomas J. Misuraca. The show tells the story of five friends (and the mother) of one Justin Ross, brought together by Justin’s funeral. His best friend Robert (played here by Landon Beatty) isn’t sure who will be there, because he didn’t think Justin had any other friends, but Mrs. Ross (Mary Alice Brunod Burack) is sure some people will, since she called a bunch of them from Justin’s little black book.

Turns out Justin had more sexual partners than parts, as dozens of people he slept with show up, including a one-night stand, the snarky Seth (Tommy Watanabe); a proper girlfriend in April (April Sauline); and a hunky long-term boyfriend Bruce (Blaine Alexander). Though they all despise one another—they feel cheated on by Justin, in different ways—they conspire to keep Mrs. Ross in the dark about both Justin’s homosexuality and his incredible array of partners.

It’s an intriguing concept, but despite each character’s requisite touching backstory moments, they all seem trapped in their stereotypes (clueless straight girl, ditzy mom, hunky but dim boyfriend, sarcastically bitter nerd, straight friend), and their final couplings don’t seem to come from anything other than the demands of sentimentality. The actors hit all the one-liners with glee (and there are plenty in this show), but each one feels like it should come with its own rim shot. After a while, even the one-liners wear thin, and there’s no passion between the actors, making their connections feel hollow.

David Ament’s direction doesn’t help bring out layers in relationships, and his staging strains the audience’s credulity to serve the plot, at one point asking characters to deliberately ignore someone in plain sight less than three feet away. The concept may be sweet, but the show feels too empty in the end.

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