"Pratfalls" is a charming tale of an unlikely couple. Written by Holly Webber, "Pratfalls" is the story of a stand-up comedian and widowed lawyer who find love on a Manhattan rooftop. Although the show is called "Pratfalls," physical comedy didn't factor enough into the show to warrant such a title. I walked in expecting one show, but instead got endearing characters talking about their feelings. That was cool though. They were far more interesting than the literal tumbles Webber's people take for the sake of plot points.
Unemployed physical comedian Roy slips on the stairs to the roof of his fifth-floor walkup. He breaks both arms and finds himself beholden to his one-night stand Elena, the widowed lawyer, and elderly neighbor Frances. This seemingly unlikely trio evolves into a relatable human relationship and ponders the question, what happens when two make one and one is left out?
While the Roy/Elena storyline really works and is truly enjoyable, the rest of the characters seemed extraneous. Frances is never fully developed. She just becomes frustrating to watch. (I'm speaking character-wise. Amelia White, as an actress, was very good.) Laird, the nephew of the landlord, is no more than a plot device. (Again, in no way a reflection on the actor, Matthew Baldiga, himself.) Was he even needed? If you stripped this show down to its most interesting characters, "Pratfalls" would be a one act and not two hours long.
Director Jenn Thompson uses the tiny stage of the Dorothy Strelsin Theatre well. I really enjoyed her staging, which never got crowded, in the half round. Thanks to Travis McHale's set and lighting, you really did feel like you were on the rooftop with them.
As a standup comedian myself, I personally find my sort to be a bit tragic and a whole lot of whiney. Victor Verhaeghe made Roy quite lovable though. He truly made the character relatable, even though a comedian is possible the most un-relatable person on the face of the world on a personal front.
One of the most frustrating characters was Frances. Undeveloped, she just became a jealous old lady and a cranky plot point. Amelia White did an admirable job though of making me not want to throw my program at her.
Kate Middleton did a really nice job with Elena. She's a complicated character. Middleton did though find a nice balance between the emotional inaccessibility and vulnerability called for by the writer.
Ultimately, this was a series of hits and misses. Half the characters and plot points weren't really needed. Nonetheless, when you boil it down, "Pratfalls" is a great relationship piece.
"Pratfalls" is presented by Ground Up Productions at the Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex's Dorothy Strelsin Theatre, 312 W. 36th St., NYC. The show runs now through May 19. Tickes are available through (212) 352-3101, (866) 411-8111, www.theatermania.com, or www.groundupproductions.org.