Theater club

THE PLAYING BOOK CLUB at the Théâtre du Village

Ricardo Ngyuen Sloniker, Marquicia Dominguez, Nik Doner,
Arlando Smith, Lauren Paris and Maya Burton in
The Village Theater production of book club plays.
Photo credit: Isaiah and Gabriel Corey

Don’t get me wrong, dear readers, I love a good sitcom. But it has to be a good sitcom. And while the Village Theater’s current offering, Karen Zacarías’ “The Book Club Play,” is essentially a sitcom, it isn’t necessarily good. It’s not bad either, by the way, just a little mediocre which made for a mediocre evening.

Zacarías’ piece focuses, unsurprisingly, on a book club. But this particular book club, run by uptight friends Ana and Will (Marquicia Domniguez and Richard Nguyen Sloniker), was chosen by a famous documentary filmmaker to be the subject of his new film about book clubs. Thus, they are constantly observed with an all-seeing camera in Ana’s living room. For the ride we have Rob (Nik Doner), Ana’s husband who is just there to eat and because he lives there and never reads the books, Jen (Lauren Paris), the friend a sparsely scattered from Will, and Lily (Maya Burton), Ana’s new co-worker who’s new in town and just wants to find some sort of social outing. With the camera capturing every moment, the five are swept up in every book for this session, and the secrets start to fly, made even louder with newcomer Alex (Arlando Smith), whose new suggestions only cause more consternation. for the status quo loving hosts.

It’s a fun setup with recognizable book selections to draw in the audience, and Zacarías has done a great job of using the selections to spark missing thoughts and feelings from club members. But this comedy lacks freshness. It’s a fairly predictable outcome and she tends to crack easy jokes. The fruit at hand, if you will. You have the repressed friends who have to learn to relax and be true to themselves, the husband who tows the cow and has to defend himself. And others who yearn to put their past behind them in search of a brighter future. We had gay jokes that were old when “Will and Grace” originally made them, racial setups that went nowhere, and pseudo-illicit moments that really were as tame as they come.

Co-directors Arlene Martínez-Vázquez and Jéhan Òsanyìn do a great job of keeping the momentum going but, for a large space with only six people, they could have managed more with a variety of stagings and sightlines because often the people were in groups, blocking each other with their backs to the audience. They managed to land the jokes quite well by not trying to land them, but the jokes weren’t that funny after all.

The cast does a great job with the material, but each character is written as such a stereotype that it’s hard to see why they would want to be with each other. But each performer does well with their characters, including the video clips that were inserted between scenes. Dominguez and Sloniker handle their streaky characters well and as each has their unbridled moments, brings tons of comedy. Paris has a lot of stage presence that brought a lot of light to every moment she was in. Burton also shone in his role. But it was Smith and Doner who really made the comedy work by communicating volumes with a single look or smirk.

The show wants to be a farce but never quite reaches that level, which is a shame because the actors work really hard up there. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give “The Book Club Play” at the Village Theater an “I was hoping for more” MEH+. Comedies are awesome and we can all get a good laugh these days. I just wish this show offered more than the occasional chuckle.

“The Book Club Play” performs at the Village Theater in Issaquah through April 3 before moving to their Everett location from April 8 through May 1. For tickets or information, visit them online at www.villagetheatre.org.