“Today’s Special” at the Cast-at-the-Circle Theatre isn’t remotely special.
It concerns a New England schoolmarm (Judith-Marie Bergan) waiting in an empty roadside diner while her car gets fixed. An Italian guy (Sal Landi) runs the place. They’re both divorced, both lonely. In the morning, he wants to make a commitment, but she’s not so sure.
Treatment means everything when the material is this familiar, but playwright Judd Lear Silverman isn’t able to take his characters beyond the generic: the nervous WASP schoolteacher and the solid blue-collar guy.
The best that Silverman can do is to have his characters swap personal histories and get into an occasional mini-tiff. At first we hope for the kind of offhand remark that can bring a character to life, but this is English as it is spoken on the afternoon soaps.
“Well,” says a third character, “I’ll just leave you two to your own devices.” When was the last time you heard an auto mechanic (Charles Dougherty) talk that way?
The performances aren’t bad. As the teacher, Bergan does what she can, but never really establishes what’s going on with this lady. Is she on the point of a nervous breakdown, or is she always this disorganized?
Landi plays the diner owner as a hunk in a T-shirt. It’s a sympathetic portrayal but if the playwright had seen the character as a young man, he would have made dramatic use of his youth. Director Mary Lou Belli should have cast a more weathered actor.
The diner (designed by Mike Chapman) looks more like a luncheonette, by the way. This is not a play with strong connections to the real world.
Plays in repertory with “Appetite” at 800 N. El Centro Ave. at 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, at 7 p.m. Sundays. Tickets $10-$15. Call theater for schedule. Closes Dec. 15. (213) 462-0265.