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Review: SOONER/LATER Reveals a Different Side of the Romantic Comedy at Cincinnati Playhouse In The Park

Review: SOONER/LATER Reveals a Different Side of the Romantic Comedy at Cincinnati Playhouse In The Park

Currently running through April 21st at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park's Shelterhouse Theater is Allyson Currin's world premiere play, Sooner/Later. Starting out, it appears that the audience is in for some typical rom-com fare as a teenage girl comes to the stage to announce that her mother is dating again. The audience titters as we think we know what will happen next. A lot of cute misunderstandings, teenage eye-rolling, middle-aged awkwardness, all following the comfortable old plot line that we've seen in a million Nora Efron films, right? Currin doesn't let us off that easy. She's more interested in the inner workings of romance and love. She looks underneath the cutesy awkwardness of the romantic comedy and dissects it. The awkwardness is based in loneliness, self-doubt, and near-crippling anxiety.

Currin's play could be likened to a dream, but it's a dream that someone else had - and we all know what it's like to try to explain a dream to someone else. The teller struggles to find the words to describe visions that are already slipping away, becoming more and more murky. You can tell that - in the moment - the dream was vivid and real, the narrative made sense, and it was complete, beautiful, and affecting. But, in the retelling, the teller can only manage fragments, and their inadequate words fail to elicit the same response in the listener. Currin's playwright's notes, which talk about leaps of faith and text that is "fresh and untried," seem to betray her feeling that this play wasn't quite ready for primetime. There were too many threads in it that didn't knit together, too many details that seemed like filler. Alas, even the main character, Nora, a single, middle-aged, fashion-stunted fashion buyer, takes a long, hard look at herself in the mirror...and sees no soul.

As the single, OCD, and misanthropic Nora, Mary Bacon seemed to be trying really hard to make an already unlikeable character unlikeable. To give Bacon credit, her character seemed difficult to pin down. Nora's OCD and crying jags were often treated as comic relief, and her relationships (which were the central theme of the play) lacked chemistry.

Lisa Rothe's direction seemed to lean toward broader comedy, and despite the stellar credits of the actors and director, connection between characters was conspicuously missing. For the most part, the acting was forced and rushed, with the exception of some fine moments from Todd Cerveris as the affable and unlikely love interest, Griff.

But all is not lost. Currin's stronger and funnier material comes in the second "half" with her examination of the relationship between the mother and her adolescent daughter. These sections seemed grounded in the reality that Currin was trying so hard to transcend, and a kind of poignancy missing in the first half of the play peeked through.

As usual, the Playhouse delivered on the technical side. The costuming by Teresa Squire humorously displayed Nora's fashion impediments and the set design by Narelle Sissons was simple and tasteful. It evoked the various locations of the play while conforming to the dimensions of the cozy space, managing to fit a stylish coffee shop, a boudoir filled with baskets, shelves, and racks of clothing, and a widow's walk looking over the sea under a starry sky without the stage seeming cluttered.

Sooner/Later by Allyson Currin is currently enjoying its world premiere at Cincinnati's Playhouse in the Park through April 21st. For tickets or more information go here. Or call the box office at 513-421-3888.

Photo credit: Nora (Mary Bacon), Lexie (Olivia Cygan) and Griff (Todd Cerveris) in Sooner/Later. This captivating world premiere with a metaphysical twist navigates the difficult paths of romance, marriage and parenting. Sooner/Later runs through April 21. For tickets call 513-421-3888 or
Photo - MIKKI SCHAFFNER; Date - March 2018

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