Saturday, January 25, 2014

Review of "Craving for Travel" - Off-Broadway

Pity the poor travel agent.  Always trying to please cranky customers and dealing with sometimes outlandish and preposterous travel requests.  These are just some of the problems portrayed in the mildly amusing Off-Broadway comedy, Craving for Travel.

Joanne and Gary are two formerly married travel agents now operating separate companies.  They have a friendly competitive edge, which becomes more acute as they vie for the profession’s ultimate award—the Globel Prize as top agent of the year.  Along the way, the duo handles a variety of demands, inquiries, and outright pleas from a host of eccentric, over-the-top characters, all depicted by the two actors, Michele Ragusa and Thom Sesma. 

Charlie Corcoran’s sets for the two agencies, reasonable facsimiles of everyday offices, sit side by side on the stage, which allows the show to be structured as a back and forth between the two players.  A phone is answered in one office while the actor on the other side of the stage portrays one of the agency’s many offbeat clients.  When the conversation ends the reverse occurs—the second agent’s phone rings while the first agent/actor has a dialogue as a different customer.  The show alternates in this format as one dilemma after another are presented and then, miraculously, resolved by the end of the 80 minute, intermissionless production.  

The script by Greg Edwards and Andy Sandberg will be beloved by any travel agent that makes a living handling and negotiating the whims and stipulations of their customers.  However, most jokes fall flat and are uninspired.  The goofy two-dimensional characters they have dreamed up, fun when first introduced, become somewhat tedious by the show’s end.

Michele Ragusa and Thom Sesma, both very capable actors, seem to relish the opportunity to play so many ridiculous and colorful roles.  They infuse each of their characters, through facial expressions and varied vocal inflections, with a singular, yet fetching personality.

Doubling as director, Andy Sandberg has the production running at a rapid fire pace, which is essential for the show not to become bogged down through the back and forth interactions of the two actors.  The difficulty is continually creating interesting and comedic short vignettes within the parameters of the show’s structure.  Sometimes Sandberg succeeds with the material that Sandberg (and Edwards) have provided.

Craving for Travel, a less then hoped for excursion, at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater through February 9th.

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