Male white privilege is the focus of “At the Table” at the Road Theatre on Lankershim. Or at least it’s one of the subjects Michael Perlman tackles in his provocative but thematically confused play, an overstuffed cornucopia of social issues that spills into incoherence.
The action is set in a Catskills country house where owner Nate (Christian Prentice) has invited his thirtysomething friends for a boozy, pot-fueled weekend. (The confusing low music in Chris Moscatiello’s sound design seems like it’s drifting in from a nearby car radio.)
Stuart (Justin Okin), the group’s provocateur, wastes no time in cornering newcomer Chris (Avery Clyde) about her views on abortion. Chris slams Stuart and says that as a man, he has no place “at the table” in the abortion argument.
That attitude rankles Chris’ gay friend Elliot (Ray Paolantonio), who says that as a woman, Chris has no business weighing in on whether men should marry other men. Lauren (Cherish Monique Duke), Stuart’s significant other and a woman of color, resents her black friend Nicholas (Blake Young-Fountain) for the observation that she’s a victim of Stuart’s elitism. And so the circular arguments and misunderstandings go round and round.
The second act transpires a year later. Stuart is with another woman of color, Sophie (Jacqueline Misaye), who’s Japanese and Caucasian. Elliot has started dating Leif (Nick Marcone), a proud bisexual. When Chris proclaims how wonderfully diverse they are, Lauren delivers a bitter diatribe that they are not diverse enough.
The next morning, Lauren splits from the group. Her male friends are hurt and cowed; her female friends sympathetic and congratulatory. We, however, are befuddled about the specific cause of Lauren’s ire.
Director Judith Moreland and her fine actors nail down the laughs and the pathos in Perlman’s meandering, passionate play, which has slice-of-life dialogue that sounds as if it were lifted from a late-night bull session. Perhaps the characters’ prevalent inebriation explains their struggles with articulate argument. All the same, don’t parse “Table” too closely. You might lose yourself in its unsynthesized topicality.
‘At the Table’
Where: The Road on Lankershim, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood
When: 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, through July 7
Info: (818) 761-8838 or www.RoadTheatre.org
Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes