Does it ever feel as though life gets too bogged down in the minutiae of “he said, she said” drama? Ever wonder what happens when a Words With Friends addiction gets a tad too extreme? Ever feel unmotivated and unsexy? Trivial and profound questions such as these get their due treatment in The Boomerang Effect, a fresh comedy by Matthew Leavitt.
Boomerang tells the story of five different couples that are all facing various difficulties in the bedroom: One is dealing with an unplanned pregnancy, another struggles to maintain an exciting sex life, two of the characters attempt to recover from the hurt of adultery and one woman must decide whether to sleep with her boss for a promotion. As each scene plays out, characters reveal that all of their problems are intertwined, and the fate of one couple often relies on that of another.
Though the wobbly plot connections between each vignette feel a little forced, thematic tropes that cropped up in each storyline provided the play with some cohesion. Oddly similar to the seminal Ashton Kutcher flick, The Butterfly Effect, Boomerang tracks the way the words and behavior of one’s family and friends can have negative effects on one’s intimate relationships. The title refers to the way that good intentions can often come back around and cause problems, much like a painful boomerang.
This concept is a widely accepted one, even if its moniker is new, so the multiple monologues that carefully spelled out the title’s significance seem to belabor the issue past the point of poignancy and far beyond the realm of believable dialogue.
The show was stolen by Jonathan Slavin, who easily set himself apart in an ensemble cast of 10 — which is no small feat. As a part of the play’s only homosexual couple, Slavin’s portrayal of David never relies on stereotypical flamboyance, but instead included bitingly delivered snide comments and gleeful witticisms that ought to be trademarked as sitcom catchphrases.
Other standouts among the performers were Tiffany Lonsdale and Malcolm Barrett as Renee and Andrew. As the couple that struggles to transition from the honeymoon phase to steady partnership, both of these actors nailed a realistic balance between caring, optimism, boredom and frustration. In addition, Lonsdale and Barrett went unparalleled in the physical comedy arena, earning laughs from unsexy undressing processes and other failed attempts at seduction. Scenes starring the first three couples were overall tightly rehearsed and allowed for the pithy dialogue to create a snappy, comical tone.
The last two couples, however, somehow lacked the physical chemistry that is so crucial to a play that is set entirely in a bedroom and also failed to keep up with the quick pace established by the previous scenes.
Despite falling victim to a fair number of cliches, Leavitt’s script offers much insight into the infrequently addressed connection between career success and sexual intimacy. Nick (Emerson Collins) observes that he stopped feeling attracted to his partner the moment that partner got laid off and lost any sense of motivation. Julie (Kat Bailess) weighs the benefits and drawbacks of sleeping with a superior in order to get ahead, and Janeta (Vanessa Celso) discusses the pitfalls of office romance and the great effort necessary for many career women to find love.
In addition, Leavitt’s shrewd commentary on the plight of the Millennials in a tough economy felt much less offensive and better informed than the recent Time article that sparked such conversation. Paul (Luke McClure) laments that his “whole generation is developmentally stunted,” and that his job as a bag boy at Trader Joe’s is completely acceptable for a 25-year-old.
The script also dealt carefully with the proliferation of technology and social media in contemporary romantic relationships. One couple argues over the importance of online fantasy football rosters and birthday text messages, while another nearly crumbles because of an affair that began as a simple Words With Friends rivalry. These hip details were enhanced by the work of sound designer Doug Newell, who employs the authentic sound effects of each app when dictated by the onstage action, recreating a soundscape very familiar to members of younger generations.
Despite Boomerang’s attempt to distinguish itself as a unique meditation on the interconnectedness of love lives and the trials and tribulations of modern couples, the fact is that it fails to achieve the same resonance as films as cheesy as He’s Just Not That Into You, Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve and the like. The script’s frequent jokes about topics such as Candy Crush, Facebook, Call of Duty and Groupon end up coming off as a thinly veiled attempt at making this play truly relatable to the people young enough to really understand why they’re funny.
In the end, this play is probably more suited to the curious parents of Millennials than actual young people.
The play runs June 8 to July 27 at the Zephyr Theatre in West Hollywood. Thursday tickets are $20; Fridays and Saturdays are $25.