Topher Grace, of "That '70s Show" fame, makes an impressive Off-Broadway debut as Porter in Paul Weitz's "Lonely, I'm Not" at Second Stage Theatre. He's as likable as Weitz's comedy, which chronicles Porter's attempts to rejoin the human race four years after a nervous breakdown torpedoed his career as a corporate wunderkind.
After a slightly false start - an unconvincing altercation between Porter and a barista (Christopher Jackson) about an off-hours latte - "Lonely" finds its footing and its wry humor as Porter interviews for a second grade teacher position and then meets Heather (Olivia Thirlby), an intelligent, ambitious business analyst who happens to be blind.
Their relationship is the focal point of the play. It progresses nicely until Porter's slimy father (Mark Blum) ends up in jail, causing Porter to be three-and-a-half hours late for his introductory dinner with Heather's mother (Lisa Emery). He freaks out and leaves after bumping into Heather, sending the Chicken Saltimboca flying. Meanwhile Heather has problems of her own, in the form of an over-eager roommate (Maureen Sebastian) and a boss (Blum) who can't see past her blindness.
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The chemistry between Grace and Thirlby isn't evident, but it's effective in its own way. Determined to prove her independence, Heather's dry, almost mechanical, while Porter's a moist sponge, soaking up emotions and crying during sex. Trip Cullman's direction is crisp. Weitz populates the piece with vivid supporting characters and gives his colorfully detailed leads plenty of sharp, snappy dialogue.
'Lonely, I'm Not'
Second Stage Theatre
305 West 43rd Street.