Pinch ‘n’ Ouch Theatre has never been a playhouse known for being timid. It’s an in-your-face kind of theater, often utilizing the likes of hard hitter, testosterone-driven playwrights such as David Mamet or Neil LaBute. The company’s current Pizza Man, running through February 15, seems like it could be similarly provocative fare, but it’s a work that comes across more middling than daring.
Playwright Darlene Craviotto’s satire, written in 1986, was controversial when it came out, with female protagonists daring to want to behave like some men do. Poor Julie (Jackie Costello) has had a rough time of late. She has recently lost her job because she would not sleep with her boss.
It’s the weekend, though, and she has decided to drink heavily and play loud music. Her roommate Alice (Alessandra Scarcia) comes home in her own funk. Neither woman has much to be happy about, especially on the romantic front. Alice’s boyfriend has gone back to his wife.
Thinking it through, Julie suggests they get some revenge on all the men that have wronged them. Her idea is to find a man and rape him. Her philosophy is that men have been doing it for years. (According to her, a woman is raped almost every seven and a half minutes). So, isn’t it their turn?
Alice calls and orders a pizza and the women realize delivery guy Eddie (Matt Baum) might be their prey. After some small talk, he decides to stay for a drink. The second act finds Eddie tied up in Christmas decorations as Julie and Alice parade around in latex outfits in front of and on top of him.
Grant McGowen, the company’s producing artistic director, directs (assisted by Julie Shaer) and gives the production a nice flow. His cast is kind of fearless. Costello is a longtime performer with Pinch ‘n’ Ouch. She can be a little stiff at times but for the most part this outing loosens her up and lets her show off a more comedic side.
In her first Atlanta stage appearance, Scarcia gives Alice a manic energy. The two actresses have an easy-going relationship with each other and enjoy having roles that let them go overboard and change subtly. Baum, too, has an ease with his character, although Eddie is not written with many dimensions.
It’s not politically correct — dildos are secondary characters and the females are clad in dominatrix fetish wear — and it addresses some issues of gender equality. Yet Pizza Man is a really short piece — not even 90 minutes — and it feels like it needs more.
It’s a show that straddles a line between being silly and being kind of bold. For all the droll moments and lines and enthusiasm from the players, it never really comes together into a cohesive whole. Playwright Craviotto wants this to be a satire as well as a feminist statement, and it never altogether succeeds. Most of its tone is jovial enough, often laced with black humor, but a dark turn in Act II feels out of place and the ending is abrupt.
In their new home in East Atlanta, Pinch ‘n’ Ouch is gearing up for a busy spring, with LaBute’s The Shape of Things next up in March. The new location has an intimate feel, where the actors are almost atop the audience at times, and bodes well for future work.
Yet this outing is more an hors d’oeuvre than a full meal. Pizza Man is a bit similar to the recent One Slight Hitch at Georgia Ensemble Theatre, a comedy with a likable cast who eventually can’t overcome the shortcomings of the text.
Pinch ‘n’ Ouch is one of the hippest theaters in town, but this slice of pizza is kind of lean. It’s not bad tasting, but it could use a few more toppings.