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What Rhymes With America

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WHAT RHYMES WITH AMERICA Da'Vine Joy Randolph and Chris Bauer
Kevin Thomas Garcia

Hank, the protagonist of Melissa James Gibson’s Off Broadway dramedy What Rhymes With America, would be a perfect symbol for the economic downturn if he weren’t such a thoughtless jerk. As played with narcissistic befuddlement by Chris Bauer (Sheriff Andy Bellefleur on True Blood), Hank is not without sympathy. But he invariably manages to foil his own attempts at responsible behavior with seriously bone-headed moves.

You see, Hank has squandered his now-estranged wife’s retirement account to the tune of $183,000. ”Reality hasn’t caught up to my predictions,” he explains to his teenage daughter, Marlene (Aimee Carrero), a budding songwriter who speaks to him from behind her locked apartment door — is there a restraining order that keeps them from speaking face to face? — and reluctantly nudges him about the 20 weeks of allowances he owes her.

We never do meet Marlene’s mom, but Gibson does present a series of vignettes with two newcomers in Hank’s wife whom he treats with similar self-centered indifference: Sheryl (a hilarious Da’Vine Joy Randolph), a cigarette-break buddy who develops a crush on Hank while both play bit parts in a production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, and Lydia (Seana Kofoed, impressively vulnerable), a middle-aged virgin who warms to Hank after the death of her father.

Gibson has a knack for comic dialogue, and a scene of coitus interruptus telephonicus is both uproarious and oddly poignant. But overall, this is a promising wisp of a show that leaves too many questions unanswered. B

(Tickets: Ticketcentral.com)