Script Tease

6th Street's 'Masterpiece' slight but laugh-packed

A good comedy has no plot, but plenty of funny lines. It has no dead bodies, unless the deceased has a k in his name. And it always ends with a last-minute twist and a big shiny rainbow, literal or figurative.

So lectures high-strung Broadway producer Jerry Cobb (Chris Schloemp, hilarious), who’s paid big bucks to a recently successful (but seriously depressed) young playwright named “Nebraska” Jones (Devin McConnell, nailing the character’s aggressively mopey narcissism). Cobb, assisted by his timid but ambitious second-in-command, Charlie (Benjamin Stowe, animated and entertainingly goofy), is counting on his expensive playwright to produce a modern masterpiece.

Thus the title of Rob Caisely’s funny, frisky, frenetic (but woefully overlong) farce A Masterpiece of Comic . . . Timing. Directed with gleeful fury by Craig Miller, Masterpiece—running throughout May in the Studio Theater at 6th Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa—is Caisely’s fourth show, along with Kite’s Book, Happy and Date Night, to run at 6th Street. Caisely’s prolific run in Santa Rosa is the product of a long-term professional association between the Idaho-based playwright and Miller, 6th Street’s artistic director.

Masterpiece has a classic, old-school set-up: a sad writer, desperate producers, an exuberantly sexy actress ex-girlfriend (Rose Roberts, hysterical), all trapped in a “luxury” hotel during an Arizona heat wave, with the AC malfunctioning to an absurd degree; there’s underwear weather in the main suite, but blizzard conditions in the bedroom. It’s a simple but sturdy framework on which to hang one-liners, sight gags and general silliness, though not quite sturdy enough to support the play’s somewhat repetitive, 135-minute running time.

Most of the best gags are at the expense of show-business types, as when Cobb snarls, “Writers! We need ’em, but we don’t have to like ’em!” or when Nola Hart (the playwright’s dim former fling), naming her choicest professional attributes, purrs, “My talent, my brains, my body—or both!”

It’s all very silly and kind of pointless, but despite a script that stretches the gags to the breaking point, Masterpiece—no masterpiece, but plenty of fun—does follow Cobb’s slick formula for comedic success. Right down to the shiny rainbow at the end.

Rating (out of 5): ★★★½