WASPs In Bed: Where Is Thy Sting?
As Gregor Samsa woke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself in his bed, transformed into a monstrous insect who had tickets for that afternoon's performance of WASPs In Bed. He wisely drew the blanket over his head and went back to sleep.
Written by let me see if I can get this right Richard Willis, Jr and Nicola Behrman, based on a story by Willis and Raja G Ogirala with additional material by Kieron Quirke and Paul Murray, the play awkwardly teeters between unfunny romantic comedy and unfunny sex farce. And it's not exactly romantic or sexy either.
The action takes place in a Berkshires cabin over a Fourth of July weekend and you can just feel the authors trying to nudge critics into writing about the "comic fireworks" and "explosive laughs." Let's just say it was merciful of sound designer Andrew Eisele to not provide the sound of crickets chirping during the evening scenes.
We begin with married couple Allan and Betsy (David Alan Basche and Kelly Deadmon) trying to perk up their sagging sex life. While Betsy is in the bedroom, warming herself up with a vibrator, Allan is in the kitchen frantically trying to find the bowl of whipped cream and get back to her side before she reaches the peak of magic mountain. Miraculously, the writing committee manage to pen this scene without getting one decent laugh out of the situation. He loses the race, and though his wife is perfectly willing to offer him not-so-sloppy seconds, Allan feels intimidated by the little wonder. ("It's like putting Neil Sedaka on after The Rolling Stones.")
They're hosting the wedding of Betsy's college buddy Bobby (Rick Gifford) and his new-agey actress fiance Reese (Jessica-Snow Wilson, who leaves the play September 17th to join the Broadway cast of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee). Though Reese says she's slept with hundreds of guys in the past, she's been abstinent with Bobby throughout their six and a half months together and is determined to remain that way until their wedding night.
They're soon joined by Betsy's other college friend, Cal (Richard Short).The two of them were quite the radicals in their day, and Betsy had dreams of saving the world together until Cal skipped off to Africa. Now he's returned with girlfriend Raina (Alysia Reiner), who's not only an arch-conservative ("Some of my best shags have been Republicans."), but looks stunning in a bikini.
After much debate over sex, politics and relationships, none of which is especially clever or interesting, Allan and Betsy conclude that you have to work at marriage and communication is the key to getting through the rough times. Wow, I never saw that one coming.
Credit director Lisa Marie Meller and a very good cast for keeping the proceedings brisk and bearable. Extra credit to Short and Reiner for having to say a couple of unfathomably bad blackout quips.
And to paraphrase an old theatre adage, if someone hides a vibrator behind a pillow in the first act, you'd better make a gag out of someone else finding it at an inconvenient time during the second act. You don't have the same character just discretely remove it in the next scene.
Though Dustin O'Neill's vacation home set is certainly attractive, the script requires a wall-less master bedroom in a loft overlooking the living room, allowing for conveniently overheard conversation. The loft is so high that much of the bedroom action was partial view from my seat in the third row.
The play has been mounted by OM Productions who, according to their program bio, "have helped to cultivate this project from a fledgling storyline to a polished piece." I'd suggest their next investment opportunity be in a can of Pledge.
Photos by Bruce Glikas: Top: Kelly Deadmon and David Alan Basche
Center: Richard Short and Alysia Reiner
Bottom: Jessica-Snow Wilson and Rick Gifford