by Philip Gawthorne
Directed by Joel Waage
A Production of Mad Dog Theatre Company
Drilling Company Theatre

Reviewed by David Spencer

The template behind The Thrill of the Chase is a very familiar one. In this variation, two friends for 20 years, since childhood, co-habitate in a swanky penthouse apartment owned by the more dominant of the two, Charlie (Kevin O’Callaghan). The more submissive one, Nicky (Ryan Barrentine), desirous of a more grown-up life, announces that he's going to be married. This sends Charlie into his Most Manipulative Mode and he both subtly and not-so-subtly embarks upon a campaign to fuck up his friend's plans, not to mention the trust at the center of his relationship with fiancé Izzy (Nicole Samsel), all in the guise of doing “what's best for him” as a friend. There are far superior plays that contain this dynamic as a feature informing larger plots, more interesting milieux and more layered themes (Butley and Sleuth come to mind), but this is one of those LaBute-y, youthy things in which people who are nominally adults spend time acting out like adolescents, often in defiance of simple logic or a more reasonable “out” option that isn't sufficiently blocked and begs questions starting with, “Well, why doesn’t Nicky just…”

                        Granted, British playwright Philip Gawthorne is making a point about relationship politics, but it all rings hollow because Charlie is so transparently a Machiavellian schemer (it doesn't help that the charmless Mr. O’Callaghan virtually twirls his non-existent mustache, making everybody else who doesn’t see through him patience-tryingly gullible) that he has no credence; his is essentially a manufactured pathology. In reality, both Borderline and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (and Charlie would have to be best by at least one of them) are more insidious and improvisatory, and claim an even higher emotional toll on the enabling family and companions they target, because the abuse comes intertwined with genuine sincerity; the trap is, the convictions of that sincerity are mercurial, and change as needed to maintain power in the relationship. But that isn’t what happens here; mostly Charlie is just a psychological bully. Subsequently you spend this excruciatingly overwritten and way too long play very aware of a dramatist laboring to keep the game alive under false pretenses.

                        The predominantly non-Equity company of four (which also includes Jenna D’Angelo as a gradually conscience-stricken compatriot of Charlie) does its best, but under the direction of Joel Waage it all seems rather like a graduate drama school thesis project. The play is at the former 78th Street Theatre Lab, since redubbed The Drilling Company Theatre. Which right now is very much living up to its name…

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