By the Sea, By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea, Brainchoppers Productions, at La Piazza Cafe. It must have sounded like a good idea: get together with a couple of your closest playwright buddies, drink a few beers, and churn out a trio of short scripts built around the same location and theme. Unfortunately, there’s nothing remotely interesting or clever about this abysmal collection of one-acts by Joe Pintauro, Lanford Wilson, and Terrence McNally. The same premise flopped in New York Stories and Four Rooms, and it’s every bit as underdeveloped in By the Sea. The scripts feel like lazy, halfhearted rush jobs: the characters are two-dimensional, the situations contrived, and the dialogue is incredibly vacuous.

With scripts this rotten you can’t afford to make any mistakes. Unfortunately, these three deadly dull melodramas are presented on a continuous program, subjecting the audience to two unfocused ten-minute scene changes. Add to this the sluggish pacing, and the evening becomes a test of even the most kindhearted viewer. The same three actors play all the roles in every play, and with the possible exception of Kipp Moorman, they don’t have the range to make their characters convincing. Brainchoppers has clearly spread itself too thin in its first production; the other two performers, Suki Higler and Elizabeta Basish, also act as director, producer, and designer. Higler’s beachfront set displays some nice touches, but there’s little else to break up the monotony of this by-the-numbers production.

–Nick Green