Nancy Dobbs Owen and Christopher Franciosa in "The Bridge Club." (Ed Krieger )
In Richard Raskind's "The Bridge Club," presented by Simon Productions at Deaf West Theatre, two strangers meet on the Golden Gate Bridge at the same time with the same suicidal intentions. Jack (Christopher Franciosa) has just learned that he's had a recurrence of cancer, in this case inoperable. Sue (Nancy Dobbs Owen) is a scrappy former foster kid who has just been slapped with a lengthy prison term for check fraud and can’t handle the thought of incarceration.
In such a situation, the etiquette gets a bit sticky. Should it be "Ladies first?" Or should the gentleman lead the way?
Surprisingly, that comical-tragical premise supports a fair amount of laughter in Raskind’s sprightly but somewhat derivative play. But Mike Sabatino’s direction is shaky, a failing particularly evident in Dobbs Owen's slow line pick-ups and pauses. And Sue’s awkward smoking of bizarre long white things that bear little resemblance to cigarettes makes us wonder what Sabatino was thinking.
On the plus side, Franciosa is an engaging performer whose thoroughly professional performance underpins the show, and as two more deceptively extraneous characters (played by Shelly Kurtz and Andrew Villarreal) show up on the bridge, things take a promising turn into the mystical.
Dated technological references, however, are a problem. (Jack calls a friend to “Google” some information –- an expositional device that no longer scans, as the affluent Jack would almost certainly have a smartphone.) And Vesna Tolomanoska’s klunky turn as Jack’s longtime girlfriend further indicates that this “Bridge” needs a serious overhaul.
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“The Bridge Club,” Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 2:30 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends May 13. $25. (323) 960 7711. www.plays411.com/bridgeclub. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.