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Theater Review: ‘Regrets’

You’d think the witch-hunt mentality of the McCarthy era would be fertile ground for drama.

You’d think the witch-hunt mentality of the McCarthy era would be fertile ground for drama. But Matt Charman’s “Regrets” at City Center barely scratches the surface, so it comes up short. Its central plot line, about a Hollywood lighting grip on the run to protect his budding starlet wife, is neither fully developed nor fully convincing. And its main characters — four guys at a Nevada divorce ranch — bicker almost constantly but never engage in full-fledged dramatic conflict.

The ranch is run by flinty Mrs. Duke (the always reliable Adriane Lenox). Enigmatic Ben (Brian Hutchison) has been there two years, far exceeding the six weeks he needed for his divorce. Hotheaded Gerald (Lucas Caleb Rooney) would like to make an honest woman out of Chrissie (Alexis Bledel), who bicycles in to give the boys “haircuts.” Alvin (Richard Topol), a whiner, would do anything to get his wife to take him back. And then there’s young Caleb (Ansel Elgort), rightly suspected of hiding something until Inspector Robert Hanratty (Curt Bouril) shows up on behalf of the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

Elgort, a student at LaGuardia High School, is making his professional debut. He clearly has solid acting chops, as does “Gilmore Girl” Bledel, making her New York stage debut. But good acting cannot compensate for the virtually flat storyline. Characters are well drawn, but there’s no depth to or payoff from their interaction. The main story disappoints, and the subplots sputter out.