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Theater review: 'Trigger' at 2nd Stage Theatre

August 18, 2011 | 10:06 am

Michael Trucco and Jen Eldridge in "Trigger"
 Psychology has a term for the subject of Kyle Jarrow’s “Trigger,” a drama about a married guy who believes that the disasters raining down on the world are somehow linked to his extramarital shenanigans. It’s called “magical thinking.” Unfortunately there’s nothing magical about this lackluster play, which stars rising TV actor Michael Trucco ("Fairly Legal," "Battlestar Galactica") as Ryan, the philandering husband who fears his wayward sex drive is unleashing earthquakes and tsunamis across the globe.

One would have thought that Jarrow, whose Obie-winning musical “A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant” was such a surprising lark, would have done more to exploit the comic possibilities of his material. (Just imagine the fun a modern-day Molière might have with the same premise.) But while there are scattered laughs in Dámaso Rodriguez’s uncharacteristically choppy production at the 2nd Stage Theatre, the play takes itself a little too seriously, resembling at times a college freshman philosophy class worked up over the Big Questions.

Kurt Boetcher’s set is divided between the apartment in which Ryan, a risk analyst (yes, there’s symbolism too), puts the moves on Jill (Jen Eldridge), a sad-sack single woman with “body issues,” and the hospital, where his fed-up wife, Karen (Lisa Brenner), lies immobilized after an accident. In a booth perched above this ground floor action sits a radio announcer (Dana Kelly Jr.), whose news alerts about “tragedies of biblical proportions” only inflame Ryan’s anxiety about the havoc his libido is wreaking.   

Lisa Brenner and Michael Trucco in "Trigger" Solid acting can't save this one, though the committed cast has trouble finding the play's tone and rhythm. Call it "Five Characters in Search of a Genre." 

Jarrow tries to widen the scope by bringing in religion, an analogous if more respectable form of irrational belief, through the character of a Christian male nurse (Gugun Deep Singh), but the level of discussion doesn’t get beyond commonplaces about hope and futility. Ryan, who long ago gave up God for a testosterone-based survival-of-the-fittest creed, isn’t exactly a stirring debater. The women are drawn with more interesting edges, but the plot that contains them is as faltering as Ryan’s hold on reality.    

-- Charles McNulty\charlesmcnulty
“Trigger,” 2nd Stage Theatre, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A. 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday.  Ends Sunday. $20. Tickets:  Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes.

Photos, from top: Michael Trucco and Jen Eldridge. Lisa Brenner and Trucco.  Credit: Laryl Garcia.