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The boomerang generation meets 'Risky Business' in Rogue Machine's 'Luka's Room'

The boomerang generation meets 'Risky Business' in Rogue Machine's 'Luka's Room'
Luka (Nick Marini) is taken abackby the amorousaggression of his new girlfriend (Sarah Scott) in "Luka's Room." (John Perrin Flynn)

The last thing you'd expect to improve a broke 19-year-old boy's sex life would be having to move back into his grandma's house — which is precisely the comic incongruity that drives "Luka's Room" at Theatre/Theater.

While Rob Mersola's new coming-of-age narrative sports some cleverly constructed twists, excellent performances outshine other scripting limitations in this debut staging from Rogue Machine.

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Aiming its sensibilities squarely at millennials, Mersola's play taps the trending "reverse empty nest" proliferation of adult children moving back home, as Luka (Nick Marini) shows up on the doorstep of his curmudgeonly Italian American grandmother, Franca (Joanna Lipari), who has begun showing early signs of dementia.

After Franca installs him in his dad's old bedroom, Luka discovers that his black sheep Uncle Nick (Alex Fernandez) has also taken up residence in her house and is now using it as a base of operations for some kind of shady online project.

Nick also sells pot, a sideline that brings one of his customers — a sexually adventurous hottie named Angie (Sarah Scott) — into Luka's life and, before you can say "selfie," into his bed.

Playwright Mersola's strengths are in high-concept plotting that neatly connects apparently unrelated tangents — Luka's romance with Angie, Nick's sleazy business ventures and Franca's deteriorating grip on reality — but his characters remain borderline stereotypes and their actual dialogue remarkably pedestrian.

Though not among his father's iconic 1980s movie posters that still decorate Luka's room, the real parental inspiration for the entire play is "Risky Business" updated for the Internet age, minus a good deal of that film's intelligence, wit and subtlety.

Nevertheless, under Joshua Bitton's no-nonsense staging the four principal actors make their roles vivid, believable and funny. Vince Melocchi does the best he can with his underwritten appearances as Luka's father, who exists mainly to make a clichéd point about the corrupting influence of money on moral values.

A nicely modulated final scene hints at a sobering connection between success and loss of innocence, but settles for facile cynicism that will no doubt be embraced by today's audiences with depressing enthusiasm.

"Luka's Room," Rogue Machine at Theatre/Theater, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends Sept. 20. $30-$35. (855) 585-5185 or www.roguemachinetheatre.com. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

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