Keep your friends close

Lawrence and Holloman

Lawrence and Holloman, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday; $15-$17. The Actor’s Theatre in the Three Penny Stage at the California Stage complex, 25th and R Streets; (916) 501-8104. Through June 3.

Three Penny Theatre

1723 25th St.
Sacramento, CA 95816

(916) 451-5822

Rated 4.0

Herein lies a morality tale: When an optimistic asshole and a depressive sociopath cross paths, a great deal of uncomfortable laughter directed at the serial disasters will ensue. Morris Paynch’s dark comedy Lawrence and Holloman, in a production by the Actor’s Theatre of Sacramento in the California Stage complex’s Three Penny Theatre, features excellent work that is sure to elicit laughter of the incredibly nervous variety.

Holloman (Eason Donner), an awkward nebbish (is there any other kind?) in an ill-fitting suit is drinking in a bar with Lawrence (Matt Moore), the salesman of the month at the department store that employs them both. Lawrence is the sort of salesman one hopes never to encounter and yet always does: His over-inflated view of his own abilities is matched only by his relentlessly positive spin and his insistence in treating Holloman—whose name he fails to get right for most of the first scene—as, by turns, either a “special project” or an adoring audience.

It’s apparent how angry this makes Holloman, but he represses it under a veneer of manners. As the play unfolds over the course of several years, with each scene moving the action forward in time, Lawrence becomes both more patronizing and more reliant on Holloman—and this, even as his own life is falling apart. If it weren’t for bad luck, as the song says, poor Lawrence would have no luck at all.

Or perhaps it’s not a matter of luck, but of not being particularly careful about whom you offend.

Donner reveals the character of the nerdy and repressed Holloman with the appropriate restraint, so that we begin to suspect his inner reptilian nature long before we actually see it. Meanwhile, Moore’s Lawrence resolutely refuses to surrender to circumstance—he’ll leave that to sad sack Holloman, thank you—and quickly becomes detached from reality.

With a fantastic set design by Lemur and tight direction by Edward Claudio, the play moves along at a nice clip and doesn’t become weighted down by the number of scene changes required. Claudio wisely keeps things simple and allows his actors to do the heavy lifting, which results in this very well-done work.