The premise of Bess Wohl’s American Hero, a flatbread-thin new comedy running through June 15 at Second Stage’s McGinn/Cazale Theatre, is the stuff of sitcoms: Three down-on-their-luck misfits take a job a sandwich shop run by a recent immigrant from some unidentified homeland (”In my country, I was doctor”) who turns out to be a no-show on the grand-opening day. But hilarity ensues only intermittently.
Abandonment issues run deep with this lot, who include a slutty single mom in a custody fight (the delightfully deadpan Ari Graynor), a painfully awkward 18-year-old juggling two jobs (Erin Wilhelmi, also fine), and a platitude-spouting fortysomething ex-banker divorcee who’s possibly the dimmest, least entrepreneurial MBA in history (Jerry O’Connell, saddled with an underwritten cipher of a role).
While there are some genuinely funny moments, the play never spins out into outright hilarity (some of the biggest laughs come from the choice of incidental music ? recent pop hits improbably rendered as Muzak). Wohl also stumbles in her attempts to tap into some deeper statement about the diminished, post-Great Recession state of the American Dream. In the end, American Hero finds itself sandwiched into an unfortunate middle ground: too broad for Big Statements and not broad enough for truly High Comedy. C+