Tout le gay monde is thronging to The Crumple Zone, Buddy Thomas’s comedy about the gay dating scene . . . in Staten Island. Yes, Staten Island. And the funniest lines in the play’s first act are devoted to put-downs of that quintessentially unhip borough.
The Crumple Zone, though, is a classic romantic triangle—actually several intersecting threesomes: Business guy Buck (Gerald Downey) pursues aspiring actor Alex (Josh Biton) while Alex’s long-term lover, Matt (Paul Pecorino), is away on tour. Meanwhile, Alex’s unlucky-at-love roommate, Terry (Mario Cantone), shrieks and plots to keep Alex from betraying Matt, while shamelessly—and hopelessly—trying to win Buck for himself. And it’s Christmas.
The production is really a showcase for Cantone—his over-the-top hysteric bristles with irony delivered at an ear-piercing pitch. For the first act, he seems to be doing stand-up, lobbing one-liners while the others, Biton especially, strive futilely to be funny. But in act 2, with Matt unexpectedly home for the holidays, the plot boils over and Cantone gets to strut his stuff: a sidesplitting lip-synch to a torch song, with breast-beating and horizontal swoons; a drunken turn with a rotating, white-plastic Christmas tree; a hilarious attempted seduction by casual pickup Roger, goofily played by Steve Mateo as a ripply-muscled dimwit.
Director Jason Moore deftly maneuvers the physical comedy and coaxes, finally, a smidgen of pathos from the love debris onstage. Thomas’s humorous observations about the “scene” are, to judge from the guffaws that greet them, on target, and any flaws in the piece are forgiven in the maelstrom of Cantone’s relentlessly desperate comic bravado.