Club Med Alert

Playwright Len Jenkin enlists seaside freaks and phonies

Hotel Splendide, the main setting for Len Jenkin's eccentric drama Like I Say, might as well be called The Last Resort. A refuge for artistic, romantic, and psychiatric failures, the seedy East Coast hideaway seems to exist on the furtive edge of American consciousness. Isaiah (Jack O'Neill), a pill-popping writer of wacky Raymond Chandler-esque fiction, holes up with his sultry slacker nurse (Carolinne Messihi), whose kittenish advances he yawningly ignores. Harder to resist, however, are the charms of the generous hotel manager, Helena (Sayra Player), who has just registered two more nonpaying guests, a married Russian couple who pose as puppeteers but are really clumsy larcenists. Taking inspiration from the surrounding erotic and criminal intrigues, Isaiah invents a series of picaresque tales involving a character named Coconut Joe (Matthew Dellapina), whose far-flung exploits are intermittently enacted by a ragtag ensemble featuring a delightful midget-like acrobat.

Theatrically multi-layered and studiously kooky in typical Jenkin fashion, the piece conjures a distinctively weirdo universe but manages only a few sparks of animating action. It's all quirkiness, with scraps of plot that go nowhere slowly. As both playwright and director, Jenkin offers the Flea's resident company, the Bats, an unconventional workout. But Like I Say amounts to little more than a hodgepodge of oddball acting exercises.

 
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