Just how bad is Exploding Love, the play? It is so miserably and flatulently bad, in fact, that it’s nearly inconceivable Exploding Love, the actual current LCC student production directed by Michael Watkins, could not also be bad. We’re talking inevitably, ineluctably bad, as in lipstick-on-pig bad. Not just ungood, but bad. Awful.
Written by Joseph Coyne, this one-act romantic comedy debuted in 1997 at the (unsurprisingly) now defunct Key West Theatre Festival in Florida, and — judging from a fairly futile on-line search — hasn’t enjoyed much of a run anywhere else. For that reason alone, LCC’s Student Productions Association should be lauded for eking anything at all out of a thing so unworkable and emetic.
The plot/premise/punchline of ‘Sploding Love does not altogether lack promise: An affianced couple — groom Rory (Dawson Yukon Shadd) and bride Fran (Samantha Rose White) enter a county courthouse to secure their nuptials; inside the men’s room, Rory encounters cosmic lovechild Zeke (Sean Dugan) and a guy named Skeeter (Joseph Tanner Paul), an angry, jilted man strapped with explosives and taking hostages as a lure to getting his ex-wife Winona (Megan Simon) down from her perch in the tree outside the courthouse and, finally, back into marriage. Of course, this being a rom-com, each character has her opposite number and potential true love, which here includes a female Officer (Polly Bond) and yet another Fiancé (Nathan Rogers), along with a Detective (Kenny Stuck) trying to defuse the situation from outside the courthouse window.
From this mélange emerges one and only one very funny line (“Does that little light in the refrigerator really turn off when you close the door?”) that is packed like a shiny bauble within the excelsior of truly piss-poor comedy — as in predictable, obvious, hoary, sexist, silly and philosophically shallow. None of these qualities, taken individually, need, in and of themselves, necessarily scuttle a production. Bunched as a whole, however, they point to an inartistic and impolitic breed of addled hauteur, a kind of Frankensteinian confusion that borrows the limbs and appendages of various comic forms and then stitches them together willy-nilly.
The resulting monster is an ersatz hodgepodge with a questionable reason for existing. In Exploding Love, the men are henpecked, disgruntled and driven by their dicks, and the women are browbeating, scheming and undiscerning in their desire to get hitched. Director Watkins and his cast do their best to salvage this retrograde material, and a few glimmers of hope shine through in the performances; White and Simon both mine whatever subtlety exists in Coyne’s lines, and their comic timing electrifies the stale air of this particular men’s room.
Other than that — and it doesn’t please me to have to say this — the whole thing should be flushed.
Exploding Love plays through Feb. 12 at LCC’s Blue Door Theatre; lanecc.edu/perarts/