With its huge cast and lofty ambitions to lampoon not only the gaming industry, but also celebrity, politics, and religious cults, Scotto Moore’s new comedy almost bites off more than it can chew. Yet by the time its Shakespearean end rolls around, the show has wheedled its way into your consciousness like some inane pop song.
On a pair of adjoining condo balconies are two competing bashes: one a costume party to celebrate a new video game called Sparkle Dungeon 5: Assassins of Glitter ; the other a U.S. Senate fundraising cocktail event hosted by the candidate’s daughter. Competing agendas are compounded by the fact that much of the would-be senator’s support comes from a shady, controlling, unnamed church.
The satire is slow to get underway, and the show is too long (a grueling two hours and 45 minutes, intermission included). The gamers could be castoffs from some TV pilot set at Burning Man; the cultists next door are sketchy enough to make Tom Cruise develop a nervous tic; and the obvious love story between the two neighboring condo owners is signaled as if by semaphore.
That said, as both playwright and director here, Moore has a gift for setting up a great joke, then riffing on it; and by its conclusion, the farce finally delivers on its promise. At its best moments, Moore’s work reminds you of Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer or The Avengers: He juggles an array of characters while still driving the plot forward and giving everyone a moment to shine.
Having strong actors in key roles certainly helps. Katherine Karaus is warm and winning as Anna-lise, the condo owner whose mother’s political ambitions may be her undoing. Drew Highlands is the nerdy neighbor Cameron, who’s too timid to say hello until the night of their rival parties.
The supporting cast is large and variable, one reason Balconies has difficulty maintaining momentum. It makes sense that in a show this long, the pace should be brisk, but to have an actor begin to speak as soon as another stops is unnatural. Rather than editing out the conversational pauses, Moore ought to have edited his own script.
And that nod to Shakespeare—the post-denoument scene where everyone reappears to tie up loose ends and ruminate about what’s happened and what it all meant? Out, damned coda! Annex Theatre, 1100 E. Pike St., 728-0933, annextheatre.org. $5–$20. 8 p.m. Thurs.–Sat. Ends Aug. 30.