A Young Actor Fails Upward in 'Asphalt'

Where's Quincy when you need him?

Jack Klugman's craggy TV pathologist might have provided some insight into why "Asphalt," the new play at Jewel Box Theatre in North Hollywood, is dead on arrival.

Klugman, who co-directed this clinker with playwright son Adam Somers, might observe plenty of clues at the scene, including sub-sitcom tastelessness and a residue of soap-opera malarkey.

Yet another spin on the young-actor-fails-upward story, Somers' "Asphalt" concerns one Stuyvesant Brooks (an overripe Gibson Frazier), who could probably moonlight as a Walking Wisecrack if only his one-liners were funny. (Sample: His casually offensive reference to a pair of door-to-door Mormons as "Nazis.")

Brooks lands a role in an action film starring the Stallone-like Johnny Del Gatto (Jay Acovone), meanwhile negotiating boring spats between his divorced parents, an odious hit screenwriter (Charles Cioffi) and a neurotic would-be author (Salome Jens). Viewers still awake by Act Two witness a shameless descent into melodrama involving a deadly disease.

But wait--did we mention Imalami (Trula M. Marcus), the African American documentarian who talks in Yiddish cliches and wants to film Brooks' life story?

As if.

* "Asphalt," Jewel Box Theatre, 10426 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends Sunday. Free. (213) 882-4188. Running time: 2 hours.

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