Harvard Burn-Out Case Topher Grace Gets ‘Lonely’: Review

Olivia Thirlby and Topher Grace in "Lonely, I'm Not," directed by Trip Cullman. Photographer: Joan Marcus/The Hartman Group via Bloomberg

She’s a workaholic equities analyst with an assistant willing to work Sundays. He’s a burnout case who went from Harvard to Wall Street, made a bundle and cracked up when he realized his life was meaningless. His marriage ended and he hasn’t worked in four years.

Handsomely groomed Porter (Topher Grace) and gamine Heather (Olivia Thirlby) meet on a blind date in Paul Weitz’s modest sitcom “Lonely, I’m Not.” She is, in fact, blind.

We feel their awkwardness and warm to Heather and Porter as they become lovers, deal with her kookie-but-loving roommate and protective mother, and his father, a schnorrer who only shows up when he needs money.

Weitz (“About a Boy,” “American Pie”) knows the territory well, the territory being facile comedies about upscale young people. They have foibles, of course, and just enough heartbreak to make us worthy of their attention for about the length of a sentimental airline commercial.

Like TV

“Lonely, I’m Not” unfolds in a series of blackout scenes that are as controlling as Heather’s mom, and that look and sound made for TV. (Many scenes end just when things are getting interesting.)

Wittingly or not, director Trip Cullman emphasizes the glibness with a production for Second Stage that’s way too slick.

Oversize projections and neon lights announce each scene (“Job Interview”) like easel cards in a vaudeville show. Mark Wendland’s minimalist sets and Matt Frey’s bold-face lighting enhance the effect.

Still, Thirlby (“Juno”) and Grace (“Spider-Man 3”) grew on me over their 90-minute stay; they have a sweet charm and throw off low-voltage, but unmistakable sparks.

The fine ensemble includes stage veterans Mark Blum and Lisa Emery, along with Christopher Jackson and Maureen Sebastian, all playing multiple roles. You’ve rarely seen a supporting cast be more supportive.

At 305 W. 43rd St. Information: +1-212-246-4422; http://2st.com. Rating: **

What the Stars Mean:
****        Do Not Miss
***         Excellent
**          Good
*           So-So
(No stars)  Avoid

(Jeremy Gerard is the chief U.S. drama critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Today’s Muse highlights include John Mariani on wine and Craig Seligman on books.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE