Wits End, Adult Swim Ensemble. A little bit of Christopher Durang’s sitcom absurdism goes a long way, and Adult Swim’s evening of one-acts is an overdose: three different versions apiece of Durang’s One Minute Play and DMV Tyrant and one version of his Funeral Parlor, plus two oft-performed works by other writers, John Guare’s The Loveliest Afternoon of the Year and John Patrick Shanley’s Welcome to the Moon. The brief plays, all dealing with alienation in contemporary New York, are performed here with a scene-study-class theatricality, volume and emotional intensity winning out over credibility. Though six different people directed the various segments, there’s a sameness to the emotive phoniness throughout. And though most of the plays call for only two characters, here they’re all burdened with extras whose vaguely defined stage business is distracting.
Shanley’s comic tale of the lovelorn losers at a Bronx bar, though far from his finest work, survives this production best, perhaps because the company’s manic, cartoonish energy best suits the playwright’s moonstruck naivete. But the multiple interpretations of Durang’s elliptical two-character argument One Minute Play and his tired send-up of a disinterested DMV bureaucrat don’t reveal any sort of versatility in his work; instead they emphasize the flimsiness of his jokes. Several performers here do show a certain enthusiasm and amiability onstage; I look forward to seeing them in something better conceived and directed than this aptly named show.