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Half Moon Bay

Theatre Review by Howard Miller - May 19, 2016

Gabriel King and Keilly McQuail
Photo by Steven Pisano

As a pick-up line in a bar, Gabe's invitation to "come watch me bowl" isn't the best way to garner Annie's interest, even if the bar happens to be in a bowling alley. And Annie's flippant comments about Gabe's bowling shoes don't exactly thrill him either. Yet somehow, over beers and shots, his boyish charm and her quirky remarks take on a glow, and we know it won't be long before sparks begin to fly in Dan Moyer's Half Moon Bay, a rom-com with surprising depths opening tonight at the Cherry Lane Theatre.

Gabe (Gabriel King) and Annie (Keilly McQuail) are both on the cusp of 30 (he's not quite there yet; she's a little past). They are emblematic of the generation that remains clinging to their late adolescence (reliance on supportive parents figures in both their lives), but in whom we can catch a glimmer of responsible grown-ups trying to push their way through.

Act I takes place in the bar in Santa Cruz, California, where the two meet and start to connect, amidst flirtatious repartee and gamesmanship. The second Act moves them to Annie's apartment, where they engage in a vodka-and-cocaine-fueled night of truth or dare, ending with the inevitable sexual encounter. Gabe awakens alone on the sofa very early the next day and finds himself in that discomfiting morning-after time, with Annie urging him to leave immediately so she can get on with her plans. That he has no shoes or money, facts that seemed adorable during the night, contributes to the overall awkwardness of the situation. Finally, though, a few more truths emerge that change both their relationship and our empathy towards them.

Half Moon Bay rarely falls into the easy mode of the typical romantic comedy, in which the characters spout lines that are far more clever than they are believable. Here the often-funny lines and sexy magnetism that emanate from Gabe and Annie are true to their characters. They also mask underlying painful truths that can't help but pop out from time to time, and we grow to understand they both have problems they are wrestling with as they inch their way to adulthood.

The production, by Cherry Lane's company-in-residence Lesser America, is helped in no small way by the wonderfully rich performances by Mr. King and Ms. McQuail, under Jess Chayes's direction; never for a moment do you doubt the honesty of their portrayals of these two struggling souls. Thumbs up, too, to Reid Thompson's detailed set design, Janie Bullard's sound design, Mike Inwood's lighting design, and M. Meriwether Snipes's costumes (including a perfect bowling T-shirt), all of which contribute greatly to this lovely work.

Half Moon Bay
Through June 4
Cherry Lane Theatre, 8 Commerce Street off 7th Avenue, 1 block south of Bleecker
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: OvationTix

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