Posted in carrots, Dolly Parton songs, Luke Leonard, Monk Parrots, Olivia Thirlby, Paul Weitz, performance piece, romantic comedy, silent show, Topher Grace

What’s In A Name?: "Here I Go" and "Lonely, I’m Not"

A title can inspire, amuse, mystify, engage.

“Lonely, I’m Not,” at 2econd Stage Theatre through June 3rd, truly deserves a more imaginative moniker. Playwright Paul Weitz does his fine romantic comedy a great disservice by not finding a worthier title to represent it. In fact “Lonely, I’m Not,” is arguably the best of the four Weitz plays 2econd Stage has produced.

On the other hand, the title of the performance piece at 59E59 Theaters, also playing through June 3rd, “Here I Go,”, conjures up a favorite Dolly Parton tune. “Here I Go” lives up to the promise, if not the spirit, that the tune inspires.

Heather (Olivia Thirlby) on a date with Porter (Topher Grace) in Paul Weitz’s “Lonely, I’m Not.” Photo © Joan Marcus.

The hooks in Dolly Parton’s songs are so catchy and bouncy that it’s hard to imagine them as a soundtrack for heartbreak, but in “Here I Go,” Lynette, widowed at 60 (Natalie Leonard), not only has lost her husband but also had lost touch with her family.

Gates Loren Leonard, Michael Howell, Natalie Leonard in “Here I Go.” Photo © Corey Torpie.

“Here I Go” is a very engaging silent show, with a musical soundtrack, some of it live (Lynette at 16, Mariah Iliardi-Lowy, sings as does Michael Howell, billed as The Man) and a voice over narration (voiced by Julie Nelson.) Written by David Todd, “Here I Go” is a stylized performance conceived by Luke Leonard, who also directs, and set to Western sounds (designed by Michael Howell.)

In “Here I Go,” Lynette revisits the highlights and low points of her life as a cowgirl, bringing to life her younger selves (along with her at 16 years old; at 8, Gates Loren Leonard; at 26, Jessica Pohlman).

Jessica Pohlman and Michael Howell in “Here I Go.” Photo © Corey Torpie.

“All I ever wanted was a few moments to myself, just to think….” Lynette says. “And then I’d put on my music and it would sound so sweet, because I had you and I had them…. But when you take it all away… the music just doesn’t do it anymore.”

In “Lonely, I’m Not,” Porter (Topher Grace), still reeling from his divorce three years ago, has also fallen on hard times. Once he was a high-powered, hard-driving success. His father, Rick (Mark Blum), a con artist, still thinks of him as a soft touch, although he is running low on funds.

Little Dog (Christopher Jackson) with Porter (Topher Grace) in Paul Weitz’s “Lonely, I’m Not.” Photo © Joan Marcus.

Heather (Olivia Thirlby), driven by ambition and overcoming the handicap of her blindness, is enjoying a thriving career when a mutual friend in finance who goes by the name of Little Dog (Christopher Jackson) fixes her up with Porter. Their attraction is based in part on overcoming outsiderness, and the plot carries the rom-com formula through. Nonetheless, “Lonely, I’m Not” is a charming play.

Maureen Sebastian adroitly plays Porter’s ex-wife, Carlotta and Heather’s over-protective roommate, and her assistant. The wonderfully versatile Lisa Emery portrays Heather’s concerned mother, Porter’s Polish cleaning lady, Yana, and a school administrator who interviews Porter for a teaching job.

Olivia Thirlby gives a nuanced performance. Topher Grace, the Jack Lemmon of his generation, deserves a much bigger career than he has so far enjoyed. He did well in “That 70s Show,” of course, and has had some movie outings, but he should be a big star, a household name, even.

Maureen Sebastian as Olivia Thirlby’s assistant with Thirlby in Paul Weitz’s “Lonely, I’m Not.” Photo © Joan Marcus.

Hurry to see these plays; they both close on June 3rd. For a schedule and avaiable tickets for Paul Weitz’s “Lonely, I’m Not,” visit www.2st.com. Go to 59e59.org.