Charlie Moose Makes His Move, a Hollywood Fringe Festival offering by 2Cents Theatre, is billed as a dark comedy. I agree that the characters, the situations and the dialogue were very dark at times but they did not make me laugh much. Charlie Moose (Freddy Harris) is a morbidly obese writer. He is so obese he spends all of his time in a recliner for he is too big and lumbering to move out of it. His constant companion is young Simon (Jesseca Stadtlander), who helps Charlie with his writing by holding the microphone for a recorder over his face. As payment Simon gets to poke Charlie with a stick. Charlie rents a room from Simon’s mother Nancy (Francesca Manzi) who is totally lacking in maternal instincts or feelings. She admits to Simon’s guidance counselor Gene (Vince Donvito) that she only got pregnant on a dare. She hates being a mother and does not know what to do with Simon, especially when she discovers his violence filled notebooks. Simon’s father is long gone. Honey Blank (Jessica J’aime) is a stripper who may be Charlie’s girlfriend or may just be a fantasy figure.
There are a lot of loose ends in Jessica Jill Turner’s one-hour script that might be smoothed out in a longer edition. If indeed this play is expanded, the backstories of both Charlie and Nancy need to be fleshed out in more detail. How did Charlie get so obese? How has Nancy managed to raise a child that she totally disdains? The character of Nancy is reminiscent of the many hapless mothers in playwright Christopher Durang’s oeuvre. The scene between Nancy and Gene is actually the funniest in the play and clicks on many levels of absurdity. Simon comes across as a hyper and overly petulant child in need of a good dose of disciplining. Honey seems like a fantasy element from another play while Charlie’s character is as inert as a big lump of moose meat. Turner has a knack for writing engaging dialogue but she seems to have painted herself into a corner with the utter distastefulness of these characters. Even in the darkest of dark comedies, there has to be some glimmer of light. The cast is totally committed to playing these characters full out under Sam Wilkes’s unflinching direction.