"Lucky Me," at The Theater Barn, trips over itself

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NEW LEBANON, N.Y. — Sara Fine, the pivotal character in Robert Caisley's curious dark comedy, "Lucky Me," leads an accident-prone life — pets die, roofs leak, light bulbs blow out, men who date her do so at their physical peril. At its most coordinated moments, her life is out of synch — a condition that plagues the fitful, at best, production that Caisley's 2014 play is receiving at The Theater Barn.

Sara, who is played by Colleen Lovett with single-minded determination that gives way, on occasion, to poignancy and charm, shares her two-bedroom Denver apartment with her curmudgeonly, demanding father, Leo (John Noble), who fell sleep one night and woke up the next morning completely blind, a condition he uses to manipulate and cudgel his daughter.

As the play begins, Sara has been ushered into her apartment by an amiable airport TSA (Transportation Security Administration) officer, Tom (Richard Lounello), who has been transferred from Alaska to Denver by the Department of Homeland Security. As the gods of rom-com would have it, Tom happens to live across the street from Sara. So, he's around when she falls off her roof — don't ask; rushes her to the hospital and is now bringing her home.

It is New Year's Eve and by the time "Lucky Me" ends six months later on the Fourth of July, Sara, Tom and Leo will have made a turning-point journey in their lives, tracked in a narrative that is told with an uneasy blend of humor and drama that involves unresolved issues between Sara and her father, although Tom also is carrying some weight from his past.

This is, at its heart, a love story about three people trying to connect the dots in their lives. Caisley also is trying to connect dots but his sense of construction throughout is, at best, arbitrary and awkward, like a first, at best second, draft. Caisley's path to "Lucky Me's" resolution is meandering and frequently difficult to trace. The first act plods along in search of laughs it never authentically earns. The play treads water as Caisley tries to lay the foundation for the relationship that is meant to be between Sara and Tom. "Lucky Me," and this production, almost catch fire with an abrupt change of tone in the second act but, instead of blending, the play's drama and its vaguely defined sense of humor are at constant odds, achieving, at best, an uneasy truce. Neither director Phil Rice nor his cast bridge the gap.

It doesn't help that, despite their best efforts, the chemistry between Lovett's Sara and Lounello's affable Tom simply isn't there. When, during a tirade against her father, Sara blurts out that she is in love with Tom, the declaration is as much of a surprise to us as it is to Tom.

Noble's skin-deep portrayal of Leo is an exercise in hesitancy and uncertainty in ways that go beyond the confusion and frustration of an elderly man who is, years after a major event in his life, still very much in pain. That pain plays out in his tremendously complicated relationship with Sara. But, like so many other moments in this production, the currents in the relationship between Leo and Sara remain opportunities that are allowed, for the most part, to slip by.

What genuine laughs exist in "Lucky Me" come from Toby Wherry's eccentric Russian-accented landlord and handyman, Yuri, a skillfully shaped performance that gracefully stays just this side of shtick. Lucky us.

Reach Jeffrey Borak at 413-496-6212


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