Dating fate


“Your plot line tells me we’ll fall in love by the end of act two.” Elisabeth Nunziato reads Jason Kuykendall’s palm in Fortune<i>.</i>

“Your plot line tells me we’ll fall in love by the end of act two.” Elisabeth Nunziato reads Jason Kuykendall’s palm in Fortune.

Rated 4.0

Fortune is a sweet romantic comedy that carries William Shakespeare’s old phrase “star-crossed lovers” to humorous contemporary extremes. Not that there’s anything Shakespearean about this script. Playwright Deborah Zoe Laufer opens with a tidy, two-actor scene: A desperately lovelorn accountant visits a Brooklyn fortuneteller, who (strangely enough) has been single for a long time herself. She doesn’t socialize with customers, but she kind of likes this guy—and then she sees his palm, which is dominated by the darkest of portents.

Except that he doesn’t die. And he keeps coming back for more advice. You don’t need tarot cards to anticipate that the remainder of this efficient, likeable play almost certainly will involve “boy almost gets seer,” “boy loses seer” and “boy and seer kiss and reconcile.”

Two factors move this show out of the “routine” category. First and foremost, there’s genuine onstage chemistry between the two members of the cast. Jason Kuykendall displays a very attractive mix of self-doubt, vulnerability, warmth and eagerness—kind of like the sad puppy whose tail starts wagging while he’s being chastised. And he radiates a sexy quality besides.

As the fortuneteller, Elisabeth Nunziato has a field day going back and forth between feisty retorts, longing gazes, and tears following rejection. She also gets to dress up as three different redheads (a Southern belle, a circus performer and a sexy biker chick) that “encounter” the accountant at a park bench. He’s waiting patiently because the fortuneteller has foretold that there he will meet the woman he’s fated to marry. (Nancy Pipkin’s costumes, with lots of blues and greens that counter the red wig, figure prominently in Nunziato’s funny transformations.)

Secondly, although Laufer’s script is by no means groundbreaking or strikingly original, she does decorate the familiar framework of the romantic comedy with a goodly number of laugh lines and funny situations. Laufer plays the game well, so you don’t really mind too much when the story takes another obvious turn. The dark portents fade after intermission, as the love story moves front and center.

Director Jerry Montoya shows a steady hand and a good sense of timing. He doesn’t waste effort seeking dramatic depth where none exists. Lighting designer Sara Newell adds a few splashy effects that indicate supernatural intervention, and she gives the scenes at the park bench a lovely natural glow.