… if only I’d …

If only I could have a do-over!  What a frustrating experience it is to fail to come up with the right words at a critical moment – and pay for it, it seems, forever after. Tiny Dynamite gives a chance for a do-over.

Lucien and Anthony are friends on their annual get-away-from it all rural vacation, paid for by Lucien, a regular guy, though somewhat shy, employed in “risk management.”  Anthony’s a risk taker, imaginative, energetic and disorganized — he’s never totally recovered from a lightening strike when he was 6 years old.  They encounter Madeleine, an appealing, down-to-earth, take-care-of-herself any which way kind of girl when she delivers their groceries.

Anthony’s full of fun, if not fully competent.  Lucien’s a staid breadwinner.

Which one will Madeleine go for?

What will be the two guys’ alternate courting styles?

And will the romantic rivalry wreck their long-standing friendship?

Anthony and Madeleine are beautifully invented characters, and watching them in action is the heart of the play’s fun.  Anthony’s zany but on target about people, aware of his own mental deficiencies but not over wary, almost OK mentally, and so physically and emotionally appealing, as athletically portrayed by Blake DeLong, that one roots for him, or at least I did.  Madeleine is an alluring fantasy of a girl drifting but sure of herself, and, as acted by Olivia Horton, not only amusing but wonderfully amused.  Joy of life seems on their side.

We learn gradually that spontaneous as this triangle seems, with plenty of “let’s have a picnic,” “let’s go swimming” and “let’s make love”, this triangle is emotionally fraught, a replay of an unfulfilled one from the past in which Lucien the shy one, hadn’t come up with … those right words.  Now, thanks to Anthony — in a long line of fascinating saintly fools in literature and theater — Lucien gets another chance.

Does he take it?

And even more important — do we care?

Unfortunately Lucien as a character just can’t compete with the charisma of Anthony and Madeleine, yet he’s the one on whom the others’ actions ultimately turn. This makes the motivations seem forced, assigned by the playwright instead of growing naturally out of the characters’ personalities.

Christian Conn as Lucien has the unenviable job of being the “organization man” in this three-some.  In terms of the play he’s central but in terms of the play’s appeal he matters the least.  Go see this play to enjoy Anthony and Madeleine cavort with their bound-about physicality and sense of the possibilities of summer, close-up in an intimate theatre (two seating rows deep), two beautifully observed and wonderfully recognizable characters who are great fun to watch.

Tiny Dynamite plays at 59E59 Theatre in mid-town Manhattan through July 1.

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