Reviewed by: Sue Nedar
LOVERS AND OTHER STRANGERS – By Renee Taylor & Joseph Bologna
The Community Players’ current fare is the comedy “Lovers And Other Strangers” by husband & wife team, Renee Taylor (of “The Nanny” fame) and Joseph Bologna.
Lovers And Other Strangers is written and presented in a series of five vignettes, all dealing with a crazy little thing called love (and sex, as a matter of fact.) We are introduced to six couples in all. Act I brings us Jerry, who’s trying to get into Brenda’s pants, Mike, who is having second (third, fourth, and fifth) thoughts about marrying Susan, Cathy, who is demanding that Hal tell his wife about their affair during a spat in the ladies room, and Wilma, who is begging, pleading, cajoling, and bargaining with her husband Johnny for sex. Act II brings us to mom & dad’s house where Richie and Joan, who have to discuss their impending divorce with Richie’s parents, Bea and Frank.
The show’s directing responsibilities were divided among Christopher Margadonna (Jerry & Brenda, Mike & Susan,) Dan Fisher (Cathy & Hal, Johnny & Wilma,) and Tony Annicone (Richie, Joan, Bea, Frank.)
David Schillinger (Jerry) and Ashley Moore (Brenda) set the tone for the evening as he plays the scheming, yet awkward Jerry whose only objective is to have sex with Brenda even though they just met. Brenda, of course, is not having it – with all of her coyness. You can’t help but chuckle at David’s facial expressions and prat falls, and you sort of have to root for him a little. Ashley plays Brenda perfectly with her mixed signals and obscure book title references.
Next, at some ungodly hour of the morning, we meet Kevin Thibault (Mike) and Susan Perreault (Susan) as Susan is sound asleep, and Mike is pounding on her door demanding to be let in. Poor Mike is having a panic attack about his impending wedding to Susan, and Kevin plays the neurotic groom-to-be with enough nervous energy for the audience to feel his heart pounding. Susan, meanwhile, is tasked with conveying the character’s bourgeois boredom with Mike’s obviously chronic second thoughts, without speaking lines. She does a wonderful job of letting the audience know that her fiancé is prone to these bouts of panic, and she’s (yawn) just fine waiting for it to pass. Not an easy task, yet well done!
Scene 3 takes us into the ladies’ room of a banquet facility, where we see Rebecca Tung (Cathy) weeping, as Richard Grififin (Hal) is begging her to come out. When it’s obvious she’s not going anywhere, he goes in. Rebecca plays “the other woman” with convincing bouts of alternating hurt feelings and angry demands, as she negotiates with her lover that he must march right back out to his anniversary party and tell his wife that he’s leaving her. Naturally, Hal has a million and one excuses why he can’t, and Richard plays the cad to a tee. He’s smarmy, and charming, and manipulative, and it’s all fun and games until she tells him she’s seeing someone else!
The final scene in Act I brings us into Wilma and Johnny’s bedroom, where Leslie Racine Vazquez (Wilma) is doing her best to seduce her husband, who is played by Geoff White. When prancing around the room doesn’t work, she tries the old “jump on and straddle him” trick. Geoff convinced me that Johnny would rather have a root canal than sex with his wife. Here’s the thing; at first he makes you think that he’s just not that into her, but no. There’s much more to it than that. And kudos to Geoff for his skillful portrayal of his emotional libido blocker.
Act II in its entirety, is set in Frank and Bea’s house, who are an old-school Italian couple, replete with the Italian accents, the pasta fagioli, the rolled down nylons, and the mis-buttoned cardigan sweater. In my opinion, this is the best written scene in the play, and Ed Carusi (Frank) and Sandi Nicastro (Bea) steal the show, as they try to reason with their son Richie, played by Ron Martin, who wants a divorce from his wife Joan, played by Emily Van Pelt. There are many very funny moments, between Ed and Sandi, and they are both very adept at comedy; both in their deliveries, their timing, and their very, VERY expressive facial expressions. For me, one of the funniest moments of the night was a blocking direction from Annicone – when Richie stood up, towering over Frank and Bea, I thought I’d die. Trust me, describing it doesn’t do it justice. You just have to see it.
The evening moved along at a brisk pace, which is so important with a comedy. The actors all worked very hard to entertain the audience, and entertained we were. Congratulations to the Costume Coordinator, Laurea Osborne, for a spot-on period costume plot, and Music Consultant, Maria Day, who put together a wonderful array of the best sixties tunes.
If an evening of comical love and sex misadventures is your cup of tea, (and really, who doesn’t enjoy comical love and sex misadventures) by all means get to Lovers And Other Strangers.
Lovers And Other Strangers runs for one more weekend (Jan 19-21) at Jenks Auditorium, 350 Division Street, Pawtucket, RI. Tickets are available by calling 401-726-6860, or by visiting thecommunityplayers.net