BWW Review: REVIEW: CLEVER LITTLE LIES at Square One Theatre
CLEVER LITTLE LIES by Joe DiPietro at Square One Theatre in Stratford, CT is a diverting little entertainment that is funny in an old-fashioned sense, bound to appeal to those of a certain age who are familiar with light television comedies and those who have reached certain milestones in their lives. The story involves an older married couple dealing with their successful son who seems to be going through a marital crisis, thanks to his new parenthood, a wife who is focused on their baby, and an attractive, younger personal trainer at his gym. The play is full of witty lines and interesting, fleshed out characters, along with a few laugh out loud moments that do not need the accompaniment of a laugh track, but still has the appeal of one of those old-school family sitcoms that were so fashionable back in the day.
Well furnished by set designer Robert "Coach" Mastroni, CLEVER LITTLE LIES takes place in a locker room, a car, and a living room. The small Square One stage is cleverly set to accommodate all - including the car - with imaginative blocking and direction from Director Tom Holehan. The well-appointed living room is reminiscent of an Ikea showroom with its matching pieces and color scheme, all giving the impression that this is a family that lives comfortably. I am always impressed by the way this theatre group uses their space and dresses their sets perfectly for every play they do.
The cast is outstanding in their respective roles. We first meet Bill, played by Paulo Araujo, and Bill, Sr., played by Peter Wood, in the locker room after a game of tennis. Bill Sr. is praising his son's performance on the court, despite the fact that he lost, and Bill Jr. is saying that he played terribly. After some banter, we learn that Bill Jr. is stressed because he has been involved in an extramarital affair with his 20-year-old personal trainer and he's in love. Peter Wood is excellent as Bill Sr. as he deals with the shock and disappointment in his son, as well as how he stumbles to guide him through the situation by doing the right thing in terms of his wife and daughter. He is funny and instantly relatable as a parent who awkwardly tries to deal with his son spewing too much information regarding his personal, intimate life, drawing many chuckles from the audience.
Bill Jr. tells Bill Sr. not to tell his mother, but Bill Sr. hems and haws, knowing that she has a way of drawing information out of him. And then we meet her. Peggy Nelson is perfect as Alice, the take charge woman who easily reads the situation and goes into action, butting in where she may not be wanted because it's a mother's duty to help her children. We all know her - just enough of a nudge to get her way, won't take no for an answer and has a plan to set things right straight away. She is a woman with a mission - to save her son's marriage, and she won't be stopped.
Alice invites Bill Jr. and his wife Jane (also excellently played by Josie Kulp) over for dinner and things get really interesting. I have to congratulate Ms. Kulp and costume coordinators Gaetana Grinder and Kerry Lambert, for Jane's appearance. The bespectacled Jane shows up to dinner in yoga pants, oversized layered t-shirts and a sweater, and hair pulled back in a messy bun - like a new mom uniform that those of us who have been through it can easily relate to. She loves her husband but her focus is on the baby, and she can quote studies and childcare literature like an expert, just like many new moms who are nervous about their newfound responsibilities do.
I don't want to spill the beans as to how the evening ends but it is fair to say that the play is funny, puzzling, and maybe even a little bit sad before it reaches its satisfying conclusion. Alice is a revelation in how to solve a problem without directly stating the problem, pushing both Bill Jr. and Jane in the direction she wants them to move in, without being overtly overbearing. Bill Sr. is perfect as the guy who knows that he should just stay out of Alice's way, going along with her plan until it truly hits home; Bill Jr. has just the perfect amount of longing for his exciting new 'love', and overwhelming guilt about what he's been doing, and Jane is not oblivious to Bill Jr.'s frustrations and learning to reconcile her marriage with new motherhood. It's quite a balancing act, with kudos going out to the cast, and to the director, for the perfect comic timing, as well as bringing out the nuances in emotions that the script and playwright call for.
While entertaining, CLEVER LITTLE LIES has nothing new or earth-shattering about it. It does not tackle world problems or raise controversial issues and while there are a few swear words and talk about intimate sex details, it is not one of those plays that will change the world. But if you are looking for a few good laughs, some light entertainment, and outstanding comedic performances, this is the play for you. CLEVER LITTLE LIES runs through March 17 at Square One Theatre in Stratford.