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Internal Continuity

The comic book industry has loomed large in my life. I’ve never really read them, except for a pre-teen phase with Archie comics. But my baby sister is a legend in the industry, who once bought a farm using her comic collection as collateral, and famously started to decorate her Christmas tree with Marvel action figures in 1984.

Nonetheless, despite innumerable family dinner conversations about whether She-Hulk shaves her legs and which character trait of Stan Lee most defines him, I really needed the glossary to geekdom inside the program for Internal Continuity, the new play by Shaun McLaughlin (author of Cheapjack Shakespeare) at Road Less Traveled Theatre. The world of Efrin, Shelby, and Buster, the featured characters, is just too insular for the likes of me.

High school friends played by Dave Hayes (Efrin), Matt Witten (Shelby), and Bob Grabowski (Buster)—fine actors all—are fast approaching middle age but have not really progressed past sophomore year. None has ever had a real girlfriend. The purpose of their lives seems to be playing out endless games of Dungeons and Dragons and weekly trips to the comic book store.

The plot is kicked in motion when Efrin (gasp!) begins dating. And from that moment, said plot stays in motion, never really advancing and never actually picking up dramatic traction, but continuing on and on in a lateral direction.

McLaughlin can lay out droll cultural observations with skill and complete nonchalance, and this is a great source of fun in his play. Audience members with a background in this world laughed heartily and enthusiastically at the performance I attended. This insouciance, however, could use a clearer sense of purpose. Increasingly frenetic pacing and surprise occurrences do not make for forward momentum. At one point, we all but lose track of the complication that set the play in motion, as I worried if the playwright was going to be able to get us out of there without having one of the characters win the lottery.

Comic books, and popular films, and even games of D&D are deeply embedded in narrative. That is the element that would help us care more deeply about the fates of Efrin, Shelby, and Buster—who are fairly likeable fellows dropped down in a reasonably interesting situation.

The delightful surprise of the production is the introduction of Sara Kow-Falcone, an alluring actress who brings lucidity and substance to a role written in broad strokes. Ever reliable Bethany Sparacio, an actress blessed with comic genius, enlivens the play and her character with her welcome second act entrance. Aaron Krygier affords the show’s most unexpected sight gag with deadpan aplomb.

It is a central part of the Road Less Traveled mission to develop new plays by local writers. We may see another incarnation of Internal Continuity.

Scott Behrend directed the production. David Butler designed the set. Katie Menke provided the sound design, and Maura Simmonds-Price devised the costumes.