A romantic comedy with more than just the usual misadventures and misunderstandings, Hot Mess, now playing at the Jerry Orbach Theater at The Theater Center, offers us so much more baggage.
Young lovers Elanor (Lucy DeVito) and Max (Max Crumm) are just starting out their relationship and in the course of getting to know everything about each other, they willingly divulge details of their past relationships. As the tag line goes: Elanor discusses her past boyfriends, but Max hasn’t quite mentioned his.
Skilled playwrights Dan Rothenberg and Colleen Crabtree have captured a sticky moment that might play out in any new love story with sheer honesty and absolute delight. Rather than going for cheap laughs, Rothenberg and Crabtree allow realistic conversations in a realistic scenario to stew in their own natural comic juices.
Lucy DeVito plays failed comedian/wannabe magician Elanor with naivety and fervor and high energy angst; she deserves all the cheers and applause she gets from the audience after a particularly zestful scene conveying one of her mental “crashes.” Max Crumm as Max gives an equally impressive performance as stand-up comedian Max who through the play’s duration eventually finds the courage to tell his new girlfriend about his bisexuality. He confides in his fellow stand-up colleague and neighbor, Lewis (Paul Molnar, who also dabbles in multiple roles throughout). Molnar provides more than just the “whacky neighbor” routine, shining with the ability to be at once realistic and genuine all the while producing impressive comedic moments.
With its vaudeville-esque moments played out in perfect timing by all three actors directed by Jonathan Silverstein, there’s never a dull moment and the through line is clear and well grasped by both the performers and audience alike.
With minimal props and a simplistic yet inventive multi-purpose set by talented scenic designer Tobin Ost, we are free to enjoy and take from the story presented, and the actors certainly use their freedom to their full advantage; their full commitment is made very clear in their unabashed abandonment, being completely vulnerable and open, endearing them to their viewers.
Hot Mess is an enjoyable one-act play, leaving you feeling satisfied and even happy for the two neurotics who finally found each other.