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‘Cadillac’ at Actors’ Center / ‘Ups and Downs’ at Actors Alley / ‘Disorderly Conduct’ at Eagle

Bruce McIntosh’s “Cadillac,” at the Actors’ Center, doesn’t have much get-up-and-go, nor is it particularly fuel-efficient. The luxurious trappings that we associate with the car of the same name are nowhere in sight.

Still, the characters who are taking a ride in this “Cadillac” are interesting enough to warrant a rewrite. All they need is a better vehicle.

They’re three men who have been friends since boyhood. Now, in their 30s, the friendship is cracking up as they go their separate ways. They have gathered for a final night together before one of them moves out West.

McIntosh himself plays the most distinctive of the three--a mechanic who’s been set up with a blind date for the evening. This guy knows all there is to know about a car’s belts, but he needs help in threading his own belt through his pants. Around women, he’s hopelessly awkward, yet occasionally he erupts out of his shell with a fiercely emphatic round of rant.

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His personality problems are attributed to a bad acid trip as a teen-ager, for which his two friends feel responsible. It’s a simplistic explanation, and at times this fellow sounds more like an actor’s self-created showcase than like a living human being. But he is entertaining.

He’s goaded throughout the play by one of his erstwhile friends (Michael Newland), a would-be smoothie whose brief marriage is already on the rocks. The third friend (Roderick Spencer, though director Norman Jon Clark filled in at the performance I saw) is the one who’s taking a corporate job in Phoenix, leaving his Italian-American roots as well as his friends in the process.

The pacing was terribly lethargic last Friday; Clark’s understudied performance didn’t help matters. The script needs editing, and a little more insight into why these three were friends in the first place. But the relationships are otherwise well observed. And though the women in these men’s lives generally remain on the periphery of the play, they ring true.

‘Ups and Downs’

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The two one-acts that make up “Ups and Downs,” at Actors Alley, are hardly more than sketches.

Jim Strain’s “Arbor Day” attempts to demonstrate how two lovers (Terry Evans and Brenda Isaacs) can get on each other’s nerves to the point of seeming completely incompatible--yet remain together. He works in a hardware store and likes to indulge in philosophical speculation; she sells sex toys and likes to stick to business. It’s a strain to believe that these two are really made for each other, despite the best efforts of two attractive actors. Michael Lilly directed.

Bill Barnett’s “The Adversaries” plays like an audition script for “L.A. Law"--an impression that is bolstered by a note in Barnett’s bio: “With a little encouragement he could be induced to move to L.A. to write for TV.” There is nothing in this plastic skit about married attorneys representing warring spouses that merits such encouragement. Jan Marlyn directed.

‘Disorderly Conduct’

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Something called A Very Big Production Company is presenting a very little comedy revue, “Disorderly Conduct,” at the Eagle Theater. The subjects are stale, the writing is predictable, the performers are forgettable.

Writers Russell Taras and Eric Taras take pride in the fact that the entire show is scripted, rather than partially improvised. “Everybody hates improv,” says one performer.

Not true. Audiences often give improvisers the benefit of the doubt, on the grounds that they’re making it up as they go along. But no excuse is in sight when scripted material is as unfunny as this. They might as well have made it up as they went along; it couldn’t have been any worse.

“This summer I’m auditing a class with the Groundlings,” commented one of the “Disorderlies.” Good idea.

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