Ben (Darren Goldstein) has a problem: His girlfriend Natasha (Marin Ireland) is in rehearsal for a new play that calls for her to perform an act of oral sex on her scene partner Danny (Ryan O’Nan), and the director, Gavin (Rob Campbell), notorious for his “visceral” production of The Changeling, doesn’t want said act to be simulated. After that start, events go increasingly haywire in Robert Farquhar’s Bad Jazz, receiving its New York premiere by the enterprising Play Company. Alternating puckish slices of what my former colleague on this paper Julius Novick used to call “Pirandelicatessen” with dark, sardonic globs of what today’s Brits call “miserabilism,” Bad Jazz steers a sharp-eyed but wayward course between sordid reality and the artsy-scruffy plays that exploit same. You never know quite where you are, but you do know that Farquhar writes with his brain and his heart both fully functional, even if you may wish that he wouldn’t focus so closely on this butt end of show business, where everybody seems to cherish huge theatrical ambitions while being totally clueless about what theater is.
It’s clear, though, that director Trip Cullman and his quick, spunky cast have their showbiz heads on straight. The actors, who also include Colby Chambers and Susie Pourfar, are uniformly first-rate, with Ireland in sublimely giddy comic form, while Campbell’s haughty, self-destructive toy tyrant and O’Nan’s dumbly eager narcissist provide her a juicy pair of comic foils. Right it is, if you think so.