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Walking the mean streets of desire

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Even back in my day, "breakin' up was hard to do." All of us remember the drama and trauma of relationships as part of our search for meaning and our incubation into adulthood. And what may seem trite and melodramatic in retrospect was momentous and truly painful when we were going through it.

In the post-Gen-X world of writer/star Tod Kimbro's "The Zombie Doorman (or Head Trauma and the Nature of Desire)," directed by Julia Granacki, where the young protagonists are untethered to anything larger than themselves -- political, social or spiritual -- the problems are the same, but the magnitude of the suffering seems so much greater. For these kids, breakin' up is REALLY FUCKING HARD to do!

A cross between "Friends" and "As the World Turns" (with a little MTV and "Jerry Springer"), "The Zombie Doorman" is a dark and cynically knowing comedy about the love affairs of several buddies, roommates and assorted hangers-on, all of whom seem to have time for nothing but their social couplings and/or uncouplings and, of course, the usual -- bars, clubs, booze, pot and smokes. It's a world devoid of adult responsibility where hedonism and self-indulgence are the only pastimes, and partners change faster than the scenery. But even though its characters are insecure, sex-obsessed and maddeningly juvenile, the play manages to be witty, pithy and uncannily humane in its nonjudgmental and compassionate approach to the nature of desire.

This is largely due to writer Kimbro's sure sense of dramatic structure and his dead-on characterizations of the various needy and immature lovers. Kimbro also gives the most icily compelling performance as the brilliant, bitchy, repressive Devon, whose lover has made the break.

Most of the rest of the young cast acquit themselves to a greater or lesser degree, in roles that seem very close to the experiences of their generation. It seems that Kimbro has imbibed the first rule of the game: "Write what you know."

Peppered throughout the production are original songs by Kimbro and musical performer Jeff Forte, as well as enough bizarre twists and detached comic moments to act as a bulwark against the sometimes tedious and unbelievable nature of the plot. Without these touches, the two-hour examination of modern romantic anxiety would be harder to take.

But the blooming company has shown that, though they may be looking for love in all the wrong places, they know theater well enough to take us on an interesting ride.


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