Ready for the exciting drama of a homebody slacker who sits around in his bathrobe on a lazy Sunday waiting for his ex-girlfriend to call? Then prepare for Realism, Anthony Neilson’s voyage inside the mind of Stuart, a painfully average dude with no ambition, no prospects, and little personality. This absurdist comedy tries to combine the chilled-out stoner ethos of Richard Linklater with the dream logic of Michel Gondry, but with none of their charm. As Stuart drifts in and out of a series of unremarkable flashbacks and fantasies, Neilson wants to tease us with what’s “reality” and what’s mind-tripping. But the magical effects are inconsistent and clumsily staged, and Antje Ellermann’s clunky, even hazardous-looking set doesn’t clearly visualize these shifts. (On the Kirk’s tiny stage, with a cast of seven actors and countless imaginary friends, Stu’s place is one crowded little studio apartment.) Despite some intriguing malfunctioning appliances (Mom pops out of the washer-dryer and The McLaughlin Group liberates itself from the TV), none of the surreal hijinks play as funny as they’re meant to under Ari Edelson’s muddled direction. Actor Stephen Plunkett is amiable as Stuart, but the role requires an edgier and more charismatic presence to spark our curiosity.
This British play has been revised and Americanized by the author, and in the program Edelson’s Exchange Company (formerly the Cocteau Rep) boasts that its production is a “daring U.S. premiere.” But surely we already have enough plays about overgrown-adolescent male insecurity on these shores. No need to import even more couch potatoes from abroad.