Roger Sterling would weep. Too many people in “The Grand Irrationality,” now at the Lost Studio, insist their lives should mean more than the products they purchase. An epic ambition, but unfortunately Jemma Kennedy’s smart British satire, much like its protagonist, can’t quite find itself.
Guy Proud (Gregory Marcel) is trying to get ahead in advertising but just can’t work himself up to pitch Sitara, a pricey fruit carbonate in the “sub-sector premium adult market.” The astrology-based beverage may be aimed at the female market, but Guy has no idea what anyone -- above all himself — wants.
Never mind that his leftie dad (Peter Elbling) is recovering from a broken leg in Guy’s living room or that his depressed sister (Mina Badie) and her caterwauling son keep crashing Guy’s already awkward encounters with Sitara’s leggy American consultant (Kirsten Kollender) and a forthright French charity worker (Bess Meyer).
Kennedy’s sharply written comedy has wonderfully mouthy moments, and there’s a particularly funny office showdown between Guy and his boss (James Donovan) that any mad man would appreciate. The ensemble keeps it light and canny, particularly Elbling. But the narrative — and director John Pleshette’s staging — feel sluggish, especially given the length of the (many) transitions.
At the heart of “The Grand Irrationality” is Guy’s mother’s death, a hole in the family no one knows how to fill. Kennedy keenly observes all the ways lost people try and fail to comfort themselves: sugar, sex, salaries, saving the world. But in doing so, she lets the play’s central character get lost in the shuffle.
“The Grand Irrationality,” the Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays. Ends March 3. $25. (323) 960-4443 or www.plays411.com/grand. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.