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Theater review: ‘Amy and Elliot’ at the Stella Adler Theatre

January 13, 2011 |  4:40 pm

RyanEggold_AMYandELLIOT_8x12x200_1 Whether to be a hot dog vendor or a birthday party clown may not equal the profundity of Hamlet’s existential question, but we live in diminished times. So when Elliot, the slacker hero of Ryan Eggold’s “Amy and Elliot,” rattles off these arbitrary career aspirations, his flippancy is well suited to the vapidly complacent 1990s in which this breezy, innocuous stage romcom is set.

Writer-director Eggold, who currently plays a likable but troubled high school teacher on the CW’s “90210” revival, plays Elliot as a likable but troubled twentysomething songwriter grappling with the impending marriage of his best friend Amy (Alexandra Breckenridge). After warning Amy that he’s getting “scary vibes” about her fiancé (Robert Baker), Elliot admits his real motive is the crush he’s had on her since childhood. 

Why he’s waited until the week of her wedding to say anything about it is just one of those plot-drivers that has to be accepted, as is Amy’s sudden onset of cold feet after sensibly lecturing Elliot on the need to grow up and take responsibility for his life.

That this is easier said than done is Eggold’s point, of course. At its best, the play captures a sweet innocence in these characters on the cusp of adulthood, as their heads and hearts pull them in opposite directions.

Still, the dialogue is rarely more than functional, the stakes aren't particularly high, and the predictable romantic ping-ponging entails a lot of labored setup. Despite reliance on sitcom-style coincidence, the more engaging second half benefits from the introduction of Elliot’s sharp-tongued neighbor Jolene (Eggold’s fellow “90210” cast member Gillian Zinser, who delivers the most skillful and assured performance here).

There are pale echoes of “High Fidelity” in Elliot’s slacker sensibilities and passion for rock bands. But whatever personal sentiments the ’90s may hold for the author, the nondescript, self-absorbed period depicted here doesn’t evoke much enthusiasm for a decade whose defining characteristic seems to be nostalgia for the ’80s. 

–- Philip Brandes

“Amy and Elliot,” Stella Adler Theatre Gilbert Stage, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends Jan. 30. $20. (323) 960-7863 or Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.

Photo: Ryan Eggold in "Amy and Elliot." Credit: Adina Doria.