Stephen Belber’s Fault Lines — receiving a fine production by the always-provocative Naked Angels theater company — may be entertaining, but Belber, who enjoys pushing his characters’ buttons, stretches the boundaries of believability once too often during the 90-minute drama.
The first scene — a terrifically awkward reunion between college buddies Jim (Dominic Fumusa) and Bill (Josh Lucas) — rests almost entirely on an exchange about their prostates. ”And your flow, you got good flow?” ”Can you stop and start?” ”When you ejaculate, does it go far?” Okay, we get it, they’re estranged, these two once-inseparable pals have little in common anymore — but….Firstly, ick! And secondly, two pushing-40 guys don’t sit around in a bar doing tequila shots and talking about the state of their prostates. (Or so I’ve been told.) But things really go awry when Belber brings a third man into the fray — a ”f—ing loony tune” named Joe (Noah Emmerich) who insinuates himself into the guys’ conversation and begins asking about their jobs, their stance on abortion, whether they’re pro-war, if Bill’s wife (Jennifer Mudge) has ever been unfaithful. Now why, when faced with such a grade-A, first-class jerk, would these guys not just go to another bar? Because then there wouldn’t be a play, that’s why.
Belber has found a good match in director David Schwimmer, who’s adept at finding the funny in tense situations; the playwright is all about conflict, usually generated by simply sitting characters down and forcing them to answer question after question after question. (He did it best in 2002’s Tape.) Fumusa, as Jim — whose prostate is ”not bad…not bad,” in case you were wondering — could tone it down a few notches, but then again, he gets all of Belber’s most outrageous lines: ”A dude is just a guy who’s getting by. Searching for succor. Grasping for the existential breast milk that keeps us open to life’s little possibilities.” Dude, have another shot of tequila. Lucas has the bigger challenge as the tightly wound Bill, but he?s up to it — with each consecutive New York stage appearance (1998’s Corpus Christi, 2005’s Glass Menagerie, 2007’s Spalding Gray: Stories Left to Tell) he’s getting more relaxed and more commanding. In the end, Belber pits the friends against each other in an impressive bit of trickery (followed by a less impressive second bit of trickery). Chances are you’ll leave debating who was right and who was wrong. But you probably won’t be talking about the state of your prostate. B- (Tickets: Telecharge.com or 212-239-6200)