Play Review: Oregon Contemporary Theatre’s ‘Lucky Me’ delivers more endearing quirkiness than laughs

‘Lucky Me,’ running now at the Oregon Contemporary Theatre, is a quirky comedy with plenty of heart.

Thursday night, the lights on Oregon Contemporary Theatre’s intimate downtown stage came up to reveal a modest, slightly cluttered living room scene. Buckets and bowls were scattered over the set, knick-knacks lined the bookshelves, and the patterned furniture was covered with crinkly plastic. The set felt friendly, sweet and a little strange — all qualities shared by the show that unfolded over the following two hours: Robert Caisley’s Lucky Me.

Lucky Me tells the story of Sara, a single woman plagued by bad luck, and Tom, a TSA agent who moves in next door. Oregon Contemporary Theatre is Lucky Me’s last stop on its rolling world premiere through the National New Play Network.

The play is billed as a “whimsical comedy,” and was not without a good one-liner or two, but few jokes garnered more than an amused half-smile. The real achievement of Lucky Me was not the characters’ lines, but their relationships. My overall impression was of an unusual but endearing love story.

The show’s plot plodded along leisurely with rather lengthy breaks between scenes. Unexplained happenings and odd behavior punctured the slow-moving storyline, however, and pushed the play forward. By reserving any kind of resolution for these phenomena until the very end of the play, Lucky Me maintained a bizarre suspense that was entertaining, if not utterly riveting.

Kelly Quinnett was a standout as the chronically misfortunate Sara. Her performance was quirky, to say the least, and bounced from nervous emotion to dry humor with remarkable agility. Joe Cronin and Eric Hadley also gave commendable performances as Sara’s aging father and newfound friend, respectively. All three created characters who were larger than life, but still honest: hardly an easy task.

All through Act I, Quinnet, Cronin and Hadley maintained this delicate balance between “quirky” and uncomfortably strange. Their unconventional family dynamic was odd but lovable, and by intermission, I was rooting for all three and dying to know the explanations behind their strange behavior.

The beginning of Act II, however, took a turn for the bizarre. A new character, Yuri the landlord, seemed intended for comic relief amid the increased dramatic tension. Unfortunately, actor Tony Stirpe’s highly exaggerated Hungarian accent and overplayed comedy bits didn’t mesh well with the rest of the cast.

This jolt, however, was relatively minor. The show found its way back on track to a sweet and unconventional love story. I cringed, giggled and ultimately left my seat glowing with live-theatre feel-good vibes. Lucky me.

Lucky Me runs Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. through May 2, with 2 p.m. matinees on Sunday, April 16 and Sunday, April 26. Student tickets are $15. For tickets and more information, visit the Oregon Contemporary Theatre’s website.

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