THE BIG FUNK, Jaboa Theatre Company, at Gnu Yak Space. An actor in a John Patrick Shanley play must have a blast. First, you get to develop a great white-ethnic New York-New Jersey accent--even if the play is set in LA. Then, no matter who you are in the show--the talkative smoothie, inarticulate regular guy, or quiet, confused woman--you get at least one highly poetic speech about life, love, and/or death. And the plays have such bizarre stories, absolutely resisting linear character development, that no one can tell if your performance is off or not.
Certainly this is the case in Shanley's dreamlike The Big Funk, an intensely nonlinear play with four blue-collar or bohemian characters--a knife thrower, his wife, their friend, and the friend's neurotic date, all of them marvelously complicated in the Shanley-esque way made famous in Moonstruck. But unfortunately the playwright does no more than introduce them to the audience before he pulls down the final curtain.
That's a shame, because director Jim Ostholthoff has gathered a cast strong enough to do a real play: Russell Hardin and John Cabrera in particular excel at playing the deeper tones of Shanley's monologues without sounding pretentious, a tricky business. Too bad Shanley didn't bother to write a real play. --Jack Helbig