The cast of "86'd": Alan Ehrlich, foreground, and, from… (Matt McVay )
Would that all indie films translated to the stage as well as “86’d” at Theatre 68. Jon Polito and Darryl Armbruster’s dark comedy about collective moral equivalency in a late-night diner weathers some blips in tone and casting to hold us in uncomfortably laughing thrall.
Based on the 1996 direct-to-video “Just Your Luck,” written by Todd Alcott and Gary Auerbach, “86’d” occupies an archetypal lower Manhattan greasy spoon, superbly designed by Danny Cistone. At rise, veteran cop Carl (Ed Dyer) spews racism with rookie Barry (George Kolombos), despite the immediate proximity of black bakery worker Willie (an effective Michael Edward Thomas).
Waitress Angela (appealing Jamie Kerezsi) crams for her SATs while shouting orders to owner Nick (Lou Volpe). Lowlife loser Straker (Matt McVay) pleads over the pay phone for amnesty on his gambling debts. Street person Mamie (scene-stealing Susan Fisher) squawks obscenities and shreds napkins, while a grizzled old man (Alan Ehrlich) huddles by the jukebox.
Exit the cops; enter upscale lawyers Ray (Lucan Melkonian) and Kim (Julianna Bolles). Their brittle exchanges with Angela give way to joyous shouts from the old man: His lottery numbers came in, 6 million dollars worth. Just as abruptly, he collapses, clutching his chest and the ticket. Guess what happens next.
Although director Ronnie Marmo permits his adroit players to risk overkill, as in Dyer’s overblown Noo-Yowak-isms or Bolles’ less-than-seductive archness, he keeps the mayhem escalating. This obscures even foreseeable twists, with Mark Vasquez and Bill Doherty Jr. as late-inning punks worth the show. “86’d” would benefit from more considered gravitas beneath its savagery, but it’s hard to cavil with the uproarious payoffs.
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“86’d,” Theatre 68, 5419 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends Dec. 22. $25. (323) 960-5068 or www.theatre68.com. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.
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