We gave it a B+
Lonely, I’m Not has all the makings of a charming but middling indie flick — which isn’t surprising coming from playwright Paul Weitz, who wrote and directed Hollywood dramedies like About a Boy and In Good Company. Weitz’s latest Off Broadway production, running through May 27 at Second Stage Theatre, is cut from the same beige-y cloth and succeeds primarily because it lives up to its modest ambitions.
The story centers on tortured yuppie Porter (Topher Grace), a former Wall Street hotshot who hasn’t had a job or a girlfriend since he burned out in spectacular fashion four years earlier. His fortunes perk up when a friend (Christopher Jackson) sets him up on a blind date with Heather (Olivia Thirlby), a type-A equities analyst who happens to be blind. (Yes, the play follows through on the obvious pun).
Porter feels an instant spark with Heather, although it turns out she has major demons of her own. She struggles to distance herself from the cossetting affections of her overprotective roommate (Maureen Sebastian) and interfering mother (Lisa Emery) while working overtime to prove she’s better than her male, sighted colleagues. And Porter has actual reasons for being a mopey slacker — his conman of a father (Mark Blum) routinely manipulates him and his tarty ex-wife (also played by Sebastian) takes pleasure in taunting him.
Porter and Heather’s relationship plays out with all the conventions of a romantic comedy, and the production’s cinematic leanings are underscored by Weitz’s script and Trip Cullman’s direction. The script calls for a succession of snappy scenes?not all of them substantive or even necessary — which seem better suited to film. During the frequent blackouts, LED signs flash words like ”Breakfast” in unnecessary title cards. All that slickness, especially Off Broadway, feels excessive given the slightness of the story.
Still, the lead performers connect despite a lack of stage experience. Porter might have been insufferably angsty without Grace’s flair for neurotic humor, and Thirlby brings impressive poise and tension to perfectionist Heather. Fans of Juno are used to seeing her play teen characters, but she plays a fully adult role here. The supporting actors do an admirable job in multiple roles, especially the hilarious and adorable Sebastian, who plays Heather’s roommate, a secretary, and Porter’s ex-wife. Lonely, I’m Not may not have much heft, but it’s a breezy, likable crowd-pleaser well suited to the early summer months. B+
(Tickets: 2st.com, 212-246-4422)