HERB STABLER: WANDERING SPIRIT, Factory Theater, at Footsteps Theatre Company. Mike Beyer was touched by genius when he came up with Herb Stabler–not the play but its main character. This loudmouthed, overcaffeinated, cocksure fuckup is the kind of guy who has all the right moves–you’d think he was destined for success. If only he weren’t so intense and so self-destructive: twice in this play he snatches defeat from the jaws of victory.

Too bad Beyer wasn’t similarly inspired when he hacked out the plot for this comedy about “The worst Caribou Coffee outlet in the world.” It’s filled with the same predictable characters you’d find in a third-rate sitcom: the eager but incompetent boss, the incredibly stupid coworker, the sharklike ad execs out to show the big boss how to increase sales. Even with a better script, however, Beyer’s flat, lifeless direction would surely have done the play in. The only actor here who seems entirely sure of how he or she fits into the whole is Beyer himself as Stabler. Everyone else talks and acts like the third wheel on a hot date. (Allison Cain in particular–otherwise a fine comic actress–delivers her lines with so little conviction or enthusiasm I began to wonder what they were doing to her backstage.) Because Beyer is only really interested in one performance–his own–he allows Herb to dominate the play completely, chewing up scenery, upstaging everyone at every turn, and generally (a la Herb Stabler) sacrificing the well-being of the enterprise to his own unstable ego. –Jack Helbig