Garage Sale, Circle Theatre. Playwright Marc Stopeck’s fractured, campy anthropological study of a day in the life of a dysfunctional suburban family rings hollow from the outset. Setting an entire play within the claustrophobic, cluttered confines of a neighborhood garage sale may be cheeky, but beyond the premise the cliche-infested script is feverishly dull. What Garage Sale suffers from most, however, is its kitchen-sink mentality: Stopek has shoehorned every stock situation and stereotype from 50 years of television sitcoms into the story. But his mimicry is as uninspired as his one-liners, and yet another ill-timed entrance or zany screwup–let alone a dozen of them–can’t beef up this feeble comedy.

The acting in Circle Theatre’s production is every bit as uneven as the script. As the assorted oddball shoppers, Doug Long, Elizabeth Kline, Benjamin Shields, and Janelle Snow contribute manic energy and some depth to the otherwise leaden proceedings. And Jay Fontanetta and Erin Noel Grennan display a sharp sense of comic timing as angst-ridden siblings. But most of the principals compensate for the script’s deficiencies with horribly overcooked performances full of cartoonish mugging and hysterical gestures. If Garage Sale had been more like the sitcom fodder it tries so hard to emulate, a couple of script doctors and a handful of commercial interruptions might have kept it from falling flat on its face.

–Nick Green