Rising Sage rom-com ‘Crazyanity’ lacks spark

With a nonsensical title like “Crazyanity,” it’s rather amazing — which is to say mostly disconcerting — how generally spirited and genuinely funny this new romantic comedy isn’t. Penned by local playwright Paris Crayton III, artistic director and co-founder of the fledgling Rising Sage Theatre, the show opens the troupe’s second season with a definite letdown, after productions of three Crayton dramas last year.

I missed the first of them, “The Best Game,” about an estranged father and daughter. But both of those other earlier efforts, while flawed, had certain merits, too. Covering similar familial territory, “Levi” dealt with the reconciliation between an evangelical minister and his wayward (read, gay) son — hardly original subject matter, albeit notably bolstered by the star presence of Taurean Blacque (“Hill Street Blues”) as the father.

Rounding out Rising Sage’s inaugural season was a double bill of one-acts, “Chainz” and “Broken,” featuring comparatively unknown actors: four men in the former, as “persons of interest” detained by police following a protest rally-turned-race riot; and five women in the latter, as grieving mothers who lose their children to gun violence.

Initially conceived in response to the controversial shooting death of Trayvon Martin, the timing was such that, once the companion pieces eventually debuted last fall, they suddenly spoke with added import, as if ripped from the then-current headlines of the Michael Brown killing. Although you can’t really credit Crayton for that sad coincidence, it somehow made it easier to excuse some of his overwritten tendencies.

To be sure, that’s never an issue in Crayton’s underbaked “Crazyanity,” marginally directed by Joan McElroy. Paul (Kenneth Camp II) and Samantha (Starlett Hill) have been a couple for six years, but just because they’re moving into a new apartment doesn’t necessarily mean that their relationship is moving in kind. As one of them puts it, “We’re in a new place, but we’re still stuck.” She’s ready for marriage. He isn’t. Predictable complications develop.

The two co-stars are adequate enough. Better are Kerwin V. Thompson and Jasmine McDowell in supporting roles as their best friends. Thompson has fun playing the twice-divorced Chad, Paul’s pot-smoking fishing buddy, who soon falls for McDowell’s sensible Regina, Samantha’s lifelong confidante, whose sexual orientation becomes an ongoing source of speculation (left conveniently unresolved by Crayton).

The weakest link among the cast is Dianne Cusack Butler’s poorly drawn performance as the couple’s pesky neighbor, Eleanor, a Bible-quoting widow who chastises them as “shackers” who are “living in sin.” More bland than eccentric, and (at least on opening night) too unsure of her lines to bode well in terms of her comedic timing, she routinely brings an already sluggish show to a standstill.

For a play that attempts to praise the value of “spontaneity,” the forced “Crazyanity” lacks very much of its own.

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