by Rollin Jones
Directed by Jason Gay
A Production of the Atlantic Theatre
Atlantic Second Stage / 330 West 16th Street

Reviewed by David Spencer

The Jammer, set in the world of roller derby racing, is better than the revival of Moose Murders in the sense that it’s performed by a professional cast, most of whom seem to understand what comedy delivery is about. But they’re hamstrung by two things: (1) direction by Jason Gay that misconstrues manic behavior for humorous behavior, forcing a cast that I think knows better to forcibly ratchet up their performances in negation of their better instincts; and (2) a script by Rollin Jones that has a lot of incident but very little in the way of overall story, at least in the sense that good comedy is built on. His hero, hapless blue-collar Pittsburghian Jack Lovington (Patch Darragh, playing the role with sad-sack sincerity and a Marvin Kaplan as Choo-Choo on Top Cat voice to match) runs away from his life and commitments to join the derby world that calls to him, for which he has a natural talent; and thereupon follows a kind of rites-of-passage arc that has no overall objective or built in deadline to make anything particularly urgent. The Atlantic Second Stage theatre, a lovely little space on 16th Street, is in a subbasement; and its architecture is such that once this intermissionless play starts, you’re pretty much trapped for the whole of its 90 minutes (unless you really want to draw undue attention to yourself); so if you plan to attend—because you’re a subscriber or perhaps another’s view, or the subject matter, makes The Jammer seem more appealing than I make it out to be—brace yourself to settle in. You may find it a long settle.

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