BWW Reviews: A Charming Look Back at the 70s in a Rare Revival of 6 RMS RIV VU at Sierra Madre Playhouse
6 RMS RIV VU/by Bob Randall/directed by Sherrie Lofton/Sierra Madre Playhouse/through September 6
Bob Randall's 6 RMS RIV VU is a charming look at 70s culture through the eyes of two marrieds about to engage in a tenuous extra-marital affair. Yes, it's dated, but still enjoyable summer fare in a rare revival currently onstage at the Sierra Madre Playhouse in Sierra Madre through September 6.
The 70s were the last years before the onset of electronic devices such as cell phones and computers. If either Paul Friedman (Jeremy Guskin) or Anne Miller (Lena Bouton) had had a cell phone in 1972, they would not have had to worry after getting locked inside a rent-controlled apartment on Riverside Drive in NYC. One quick call and one of their mates Janet (Kristin Towers-Rowles) or Richard (Craig McEldowney) or the super (Bob Rodriguez) would have come quickly to the rescue. But Anne, desperate for affection and Paul, imaginative and funny with no one genuinely interested enough to listen to him, would have been without an adventure! These two lonely people need excitement to color an otherwise drab existence and so why not include a picnic on the floor of a vacant apartment, and lots of talk about silly carefree things like Wonder Woman comic books, monopoly games, and bean bag chairs? The 70s brought the onset of women's lib, increased mega therapy sessions for both men and women and the search for self-expression and individuality, all of which playwright Bob Randall manages to squeeze into Paul and Anne's brief time together.
As people in the 70s were obsessed with old Hollywood, how much more movie fan struck can we get than..."Are you the Ann Miller?" There are indeed a raft of laugh.out.loud one-liners a la Neil Simon, but the characters do also talk about serious stuff such as their spouses, warts and all, the world around them and how it may very well be passing them by... and feel guilt about what they are doing behind their spouses' backs. There is more guilt than a Woody Allen movie, and that's fine. As the 70s rolled along toward the 80s and beyond, divorce became rampant, so it's OK... in fact, nice... to witness some vulnerability, thoughtfulness and a sense of moral consciousness.
Under Sherrie Lofton's fast-paced direction, the actors are terrific. Guskin is a deliciously funny man, giving Paul edge and unpredictability. Bouton is tall, pretty and intelligent giving Anne a Mary Tyler Moore or Marlo Thomas sort of good all American girl quality. In their short appearances as spouses Janet and Richard, Towers-Rowles and McEldowney have an almost reckless sense of fun with their characters. Janet is serious and motherly - a true women's libber, but Rowles delightfully plays against the grain, adding unexpected color and flair. Richard is very anal, also serious and all business, and McEldowney plays it to the hilt. Excellently calculated comic moments are played out by Rodriguez as the crabby super and especially by Lynndi Scott, the lady in 4A across the hall who will stop at nothing for a laugh. This woman has the gall not only to intrude but, with a perk of entitlement, to ask for every piece of fruit in sight. Jill Maglione as a pregnant woman and Albert Garnica as the expectant father complete the wonderful ensemble.
John Vertrees' scenic design of the run-down vacant apartment is just right, and Naila Aladdin Sanders' costumes for the women are vibrantly colorful, a perfect match for the time period.
Lofton's pacing in Act I is somewhat uneven, as many of Anne's speeches come too fast. Even though some young audiences may find the 70s hard to relate to, the dialogue should be delivered in a realistic, natural manner. Guskin has his own comedic style and get s away with it, particularly in his nicely paced hilarious story of a slight 'Jewish affair' on the IRT.
Sure 6 RMS RIV VU is hardly contemporary, but as a period piece it is full of wonderfully witty observations about American culture in the 70s and about human nature in general. With this exuberant cast, you will have a great time, so go and enjoy!