James and Morgentale: Misanthropy
photo: Robert Adam Mayer

It comes as a relief that gentrification hasn't infected the outer-borough extremes of Ian Cohen's comedy Lenny & Lou. Here the hair is still big, the tracksuits ugly as sin, and the characters' mangled Rs so reliably earsplitting that they could guide fleets of tugboats through Long Island Sound. The play's two middle-aged brothers are working-class Jewish to the bone. Lou (Todd Wall) is an accountant and probably a virgin. Older Lenny (David Mogentale) is a failed rocker and mama's boy who lives in permanent fear of his castrating girlfriend (Heidi James). Fraternal resentment surges to the fore when an accident involving the brothers' senile matriarch necessitates a cascading series of slapstick cover-ups.

As tough as it is to complain about a play that's so enthusiastically mean-spirited, Lenny & Lou is ultimately too programmatic in its cynicism to leave much of a black-comedy bite mark. The wall-to-wall cursing feels secondhand, and the mother-from-hell plot is staler than a month-old bialy. You could almost accuse Cohen of misogyny for writing all his female characters as harpies, but the men are even more degraded. Lenny is especially pathetic—in one scene, he reluctantly performs backdoor oral sex on his insatiable girlfriend. As onstage rimjobs go, it's one for the record books.

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