BWW Review: CLEVER LITTLE LIES at Connecticut Cabaret Theatre
On Friday, November 23, 2018, I had the pleasure of seeing CLEVER LITTLE LIES, yet another first-rate show at the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin, CT. This play, written by Joe DiPietro contains both comedy and drama, categories that are often difficult to effectively merge, yet combine flawlessly here, due to the excellent acting of all four talented cast members who shine in their respective roles, under the strong direction of Kris McMurray.
The set is primarily the living room of a house, but also allows moving parts in front to represent the inside of a men's locker room, and a car, during given scenes. The set changes are smooth, efficient, and musically enhanced. Sound effects include ringing phones and a crying baby, perfectly timed to create their desired purposes.
The show runs straight through, with no intermission, helping the audience to connect with the characters in terms of the magnitude of significant information that the characters, particularly Bill Sr., are forced to suddenly process within one day.
The show opens with Bill Sr. (Michael Gilbride) and his son, Billy (Chris Pearson) having a discussion in a locker room, initially about a tennis match in which Bill Sr. had just defeated Billy. The discussion soon takes a dramatic turn in which Billy confesses to his father, that Billy has a mistress who is a personal trainer at the gym he constantly attends. Bill Sr. sternly and uncompromisingly gives his son the sound advice to end the affair immediately, but Billy insists that he is in love with his mistress. Bill Sr. still remains adamant about Billy not ruining his relationship with his wife and three month old daughter. The stage chemistry between Michael Gilbride and Chris Pearson is so strong that it feels as if it is a real conversation between a father and a son, one in which Billy provides more detailed information than Bill Sr. finds necessary. Billy insists that his father mentions nothing about this to Billy's mother.
Alice (Karen Gagliardi) is Bill Sr.'s wife and Billy's mother. She is upset that the book industry, in which she works, is being replaced by book related merchandise, digital books, and trashy new literature. In her living room, she rants about this to Bill Sr., but notices that he appears distracted. She slickly manages to get Bill Sr. to fail to deny that his distraction involves something regarding Billy's marriage. Against Bill Sr.'s will, Alice immediately gets on the telephone, calls Billy's wife, and invites them over that night. In this scene, we see convincing dynamics between Michael Gilbride and Karen Gagliardi, further enhancing the authenticity in the show.
We see more tight stage chemistry in the next scene, set in a car, as Billy is driving to his parents' house with his wife Jane (Tracey Brown) and their three month old daughter in the back seat. It is clear where the friction exists between Billy and Jane, and that both are missing the mark in terms of meeting each others' needs, but it never even remotely justifies Billy's affair, as no affair is ever justified. It is heartbreaking to see Jane with the baby, while she has no idea about the intolerable actions her husband was committing behind her back. Among her concerns at the moment was getting Billy to stop using foul language in the presence of their baby, a challenge that Billy accepts, but struggles with.
Soon, all four characters are together in the same room, the living room of Bill Sr. and Alice's house. All four cast members gel well together, convincingly portraying a real family. The four cast members clearly enjoy their roles, while the audience enjoys watching them perform.
The story soon takes a serious dramatic turn that I did not see coming, even when it was initially happening. It was quite impressive seeing all four cast members so smoothly transition from comedy to intense emotional drama. Will Alice figure out about the affair? Will Jane? If so, will Jane want anything to do with Billy? Will their marriage last beyond that day? Will Billy have a change of heart and stay with Jane? If so, what will provoke such a shift in thinking? For answers to these questions and more, come to the show and find out!
I highly recommend CLEVER LITTLE LIES which is scheduled to continue to run at the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin, CT, every Friday and Saturday night at 8:00 P.M. through December 15, 2018. For tickets, please call the box office at 860-829-1248.