The way Adam (James Kautz) remembers it, back in 1992, he was part of a cohesive group of beer-drinking miscreants with high school diplomas. Then everybody changed. Seemingly overnight, his friends became entirely different people. Their collective ambivalence about the future disappeared and each of them broke off into distinctive, driven personalities. Maybe Adam’s friends were just moving on with their lives. Or maybe it was an alien creature whose orgasmic touch somehow morphed them into the adult versions of themselves. Whatever it was, they left him behind, stuck in his hometown with nothing but his daddy issues and his recollections of times past.
Fusing alien possession with young adults on the precipice of great change is a clever combination. The B-movie touches are earnestly rendered with green glowing lights, oven-mitt alien claws snaking their way through open windows, and ultimately a full view of the creature in all its goofy glory. Unfortunately, Ken Urban’s Nibbler feels like it squanders the potential of its premise. The cast is well assembled but unable to overcome a gang of flat characters whose accelerated adulthood merely turns them into scattered archetypes. Their journey of discovery carries few surprises and culminates in an awkwardly-staged musical number and a wishy-washy epilogue. Most disappointing of all, Adam’s “maybe it didn’t happen that way” approach to the alien at the end of Nibbler drains the central metaphor of any impact by spelling it out a little too clearly.
Though Adam and company don’t seem able channel the melancholy nostalgia that Nibbler is shooting for, the play does succeed with one character. Officer Dan (Matthew Lawler), a married cop who develops an unlikely romance with one of Adam’s friends, provides the play with its warmest moments. His gentle way with the kids and his bittersweet memories of his own youth drive home the feeling of loss that Adam and his friends are meant to convey. If only the core characters were as capable as serving Mr. Urban’s admirable concept.
Nibbler runs through March 18th at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. 224 Waverly Place New York, NY. 1 hour 35 minutes. No intermission.