BWW Review: Zephyr Welcomes the Sweet MARRIED PEOPLE: A COMEDY
Playwrights Steve Shaffer and Mark Schiff have a background as standup comics and a plethora of television experience, so they certainly have an eye and an ear for what is funny. Their little play Married People: A Comedy is a series of scenarios involving two couples who are best friends. Each pair has a son whose issues threaten to breakup their marriage, so they turn to group therapy...with much hesitation and trepidation. Currently onstage at the Zephyr Theatre through April 2, Married People has a real grounded base with four resourceful actors portraying nice, average, middle class people with whom audiences can assuredly relate.
Henry (Paul Parducci) and Cookie (Kylie Delre) are trying to accept the fact that their son is gay and about to be married. Cookie has done her best to face the facts, but Henry, a macho football coach and devout Catholic, cannot. His religion, intolerant of homosexuals, comes first. Jake (Andy Lauer) and Aviva (Michelle Bernard) are Jewish. Their son is moving away from tradition; Aviva wants him to be proud of his heritage and is distraught over his thoughtless, irreverent behavior.
The two couples come together first for pleasure in a yoga class taught by Jake. After the class, the wives go out for coffee and their hubbies to the local bar. It is within these female and male comraderie conversations that we learn what is bugging whom. To Cookie it is obvious that Jake and Aviva are unhappy in the bedroom so she organizes a weekly group therapy session in an attempt to help her friends put some pizazz back into their sex life. What emerges are not only Jake and Aviva's silly disagreements but a raucous fight session between Cookie and Henry. However, the big issues about their sons do not come to the fore. It is a bevy of simple, trivial things that are addressed. Shaffer and Schiff attune the comedy to what audiences eat up, like that Henry is a "nose picking ape" and according to him, Cookie is a clutter bug whose messes have gone too far when they don't even have room in "the utility drawer". There are some delightful exchanges about functional things becoming decorative such as pillows and ... breasts. Within the therapy the laughs come about every five seconds and no one is without his or her comic turn in the spotlight.
The big issues about the sons gradually emerge and in a sweet, very special way, both couples come around and are there for one another. Nothing new here, but it is refreshing, for a change, to see people needing people and putting out the efforts to make each other happy. One particularly lovely moment occurs when Jake gives some prayer candles to Aviva. Her entire being lights up. One simple, yet thoughtful gesture can produce the most overwhelmingly powerful effect.
Under director Rick Shaw's smooth direction and fast pacing, the actors are all terrific. No one stands out above the other. Parducci, Delre, Lauer and Bernard all win our hearts. The sets by Aaron Glazer and team are ready-made, but I somehow did enjoy the upright beds. It adds a silly, laugh.out.loud touch to the comedic proceedings.
Go see Married People A Comedy at the Zephyr through April 2! It's not high drama. It's an entertaining and sweet piece that will hopefully have you leaving the theatre with a smile on your face and a warm spot in your heart.