Roundabout Underground is a commendable initiative. In the cozy basement space of its Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center, which also houses the larger Laura Pels Theatre, local stage behemoth Roundabout Theatre Company mounts small works by relatively inexperienced playwrights, some of which turn out to be very worthwhile, such as Stephen Karam's Speech & Debate and Dan Harmon's Bad Jews. Others, like Jenny Rachel Weiner's Kingdom Come, merely seem unready.
In Weiner's dark comedy, a fat-suited Carmen M. Herlihy plays Samantha, a Nevada woman bedridden by her morbid obesity. Lying in a pool of herself, she spends her time watching television with Dolores (Socorro Santiago), a caretaker financed by Sammy's despised and unseen mother. She also cruises online dating sites in the guise of Dolores's hunky son, Dominick (Alex), a would-be actor who lives in California; in this fraudulent form, she meets the lonesome and frazzled Layne (Crystal Finn), who has stolen a stranger's photos to pose as a cute flight attendant, and the two women strike up an online romance based on their fake identities. This internet-dating premise already seems dated—virtually any episode of MTV's Catfish maps the same territory more entertainingly—and Weiner, a current playwriting student at Juilliard, doesn't take it in any surprising directions. Despite some perky comedy by Stephanie Styles as Layne's self-involved young coworker, it all feels pretty contrived, and as inert as Samantha in her bed.
Roundabout Underground (Off Broadway). By Jenny Rachel Weiner. Directed by Kip Fagan. With Carmen M. Herlihy, Crystal Finn, Stephanie Styles. Running time: 1hr 40mins. No intermission. Through Dec 18. Click here for full ticket and venue information.
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