BWW Reviews: THE WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT Examines the Exquisite Perversity of the Human Heart
The world premiere of Peter Lefcourt's play THE WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT takes an in-depth and often comic look at two couples, a pair of ex-spouses and their new mates. When the four get together for the first time in years, it blows up in a delightful mess of romantic complications proving you should never underestimate the power of designer shoes on matters of the heart.
Terri Hanauer directs with great skill and a thorough understanding of how the whims of the human heart can lead to joy, anger and sorrow at the same time. I am sure being married to the playwright gives her a lot of insight into the humor of the play and insight into the hearts of its characters. Together Lefcourt and Hanauer have created one of the most enjoyable productions I have seen this year.
Constantly breaking the fourth wall in much the same way the Emcee does in "Cabaret" is Ishmael (Blake Silver) who narrates the action, sharing lots of inside information about what is going on with the characters between scenes. Silver is a epitome of versatility as he morphs from a French waiter (who speaks very bad French), to a fermented psychiatrist dealing with two patients at once, to a shoe salesman, while always acting as the stage manager moving set pieces around as he flirts with his stagehand assistant Margaret (who is so embarrassed she just ignores him). Silver often asks direct questions to the audience about the action onstage and I encourage everyone to answer him back as his comic improv comments back to you will result in howls of laughter.
After Ishmael gives us a bit of background on the characters, we meet both couples as they prepare for dinner prior to the graduation of Teddy and Esme's son Victor. Esme (Robin Riker) is now married to Bernard (John Marzilli) and Teddy (handsome and charismatic Robb Derringer) is living with his latest flame, Robyn (Sean Smith), who just happens to be a man who loves to cross dress for special occasions. That Teddy cheated on Esme twice (with women) during their 16 year marriage, as well as the fact he is a gynecologist who has his hands on women all day long, hardly prepares Esme to accept he is now involved with a man.
"People are always trying to categorize relationships, to put them in tidy little packets," says one of the characters in the play. "But there are things that don't fit in tidy little packets."
"No one is safe from the exquisite perversity of the human heart," Lefcourt points out. "We are pulled along in unpredictable directions. You just never know who you might fall in love with."
As the play evolves, Smith stays true to the person Robyn really is, never presenting him as just a caricature. He feels at home in men's clothing playing golf with Bernard just as much as he does dressed as a woman shopping for designer shoes with Esme. In fact, his decision to purchase a pair of very expensive Fluevogs for Esme starts her on the path which may tear both couples apart. And any woman can tell you how a pair of new shoes has caused her to step out of character and follow her heart, often in the wrong direction.
"Shoes bring out feelings of love and responsibility in the play," explains Hanauer. "Fluevogs are super cool shoes that can be worn by both sexes. Who knows? In the end, maybe it's all about shoes."
There are so many wonderfully touching and heartfelt scenes examining how these four characters come to grips with their emotions as their lives intertwine, from Esme and Robyn's visit to the ladies room together, Robyn and Bernard's golf game, and several stressful car rides. But it is the ramifications of Teddy and Esme's re-kindled romance and affair, and their attempt to hide it from their partners, that fuels the perversity of the human heart examined in the play. How can they do this to their loving partners? But how can they ignore their obviously physical attraction to each other? Should they or shouldn't they? It's the push me-pull you that drives the excitement to its logical yet hurtful fruition.
Set in Los Angeles in present day, Lefcourt throws in references to the Kardassians, El Pollo Loco, Panda Express, the need to floss, television production, text messages that should not be seen by others, psychiatrists who seem to need more help than their patients, and how a college education means little when it comes to finding work. And since Robyn is a Brit, there are lots of jokes aimed at the royal family and British mores in general.
But in the end, a cup of tea cannot solve all the problems of the heart, and we are left wondering just how these couples will work out their relationships, culminating in a raucous final dance choreographed by Tracy Silver which allows the four actors to celebrate all the possible outcomes!
Kudos go to the technical team of Celine Diano (set design), Michael Gend (lighting design), Dino Herrmann (sound design), and Shannon Kennedy (costume design) whose efforts, along with the actors, playwright, and director, combine to create one of the most enjoyable shows I have seen this year.
THE WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT
Written by Peter Lefcourt
Directed by Terri Hanauer
Starring Robb Derringer, John Marzilli, Robin Riker, Blake Silver, Sean Smith
Produced by Racquel Lehrman, Theatre Planners
A guest production at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90025. Tickets are $25 on Fridays and Sundays, $30 on Saturdays and can be ordered by calling 323-960-7712 or online at www.plays411.com/tonight. Performances continue through August 24 on
Fridays at 8 p.m.: July 18, 25; Aug. 1, 8, 15, 22
Saturdays at 8 p.m.: July 19, 26; Aug. 2, 9, 16, 23
Sundays at 3 p.m.: July 20, 27; Aug. 3, 10, 17, 24