BWW Reviews: YOU SAY TOMATO, I SAY SHUT UP! Bubbles and Bristles with Oh-So-True Revelations about Love and Marriage
It takes a keen and even jaded eye to penetrate the rituals of courtship and wedlock and reveal their hidden and sometimes subversive male and female subtexts. In a brilliantly crafted script, the husband and wife team of Annabelle Gurwitch and Jeff Kahn have more than risen to the challenge with their high voltage comic epiphany, You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up!
Likewise, it takes the special chemistry of a high caliber duet like Kate Dulcich and Michael Greer to breathe authenticity into Gurwitch and Kahn's words. And they scale the heights with refreshing aplomb as they brilliantly channel the personas of their authors and co-narrate their journey of love's labor pains and pleasures.
Mr. Greer's Jeff is a lightning bolt of testosterone-infused romanticism. On the one hand, he angles for the passion and intensity of a Romeo and Juliet-style affair ~ albeit, he notes, very brief but still very exciting! On the other hand, he's a guy with natural impulses who yearns for his wife to be more attentive, spontaneous, and generous.
Ms. Dulcich is captivating and stylish as the steely and pragmatic Annabelle. Being right is what makes her happy. To keep warm at night, a husband is as functional as a cat or an electric blanket. She unilaterally establishes no-sex zones. When confronted with Jeff's expectations, she proposes (what else?) a marital mission statement!
Dulcich and Greer seamlessly deliver a volley of hilarious one-liners while ruminating on their characters' romantic history. They move on stage like synchronized fencers, coiling and uncoiling with each other's movements, lunging and parrying, and irresistibly luring the audience into their dance of wits.
So it goes that, on their tenth anniversary, in a classy cocktail lounge, elegantly designed by Tony Ferrieri, Jeff awaits the ever tardy Annabelle, anticipating an evening of fine dining and good loving. Not happening! Instead, the couple asks the fateful question that most couples choose to avoid: After all, are we the right persons for each other?
The question prompts remembrances of moments past ~ how they met, their first date, their engagement, pregnancy, the challenge of managing a colicky baby, the dance of sexpectations, and a marvelously witty contretemps around Facebook and friending. It's the Rashomon effect all over again with Jeff and Annabelle not only seeing the same reality with different perspectives but inevitably influenced by conflicting needs, expectations, standards and boundaries.
They ask if it is fate or chance that brings two people together. For Jeff, it's the former; for Kate, the latter. Is love a soul-mate thing or a random and practical act of convenience to satisfy one's need for companionship, control, or reproduction? Is the duty of marriage to love the one you're with?
Dulcich and Greer navigate this roiling sea of questions and arrive at a port of repose that holds the answer that works for Annabelle and Jeff ~ and that perhaps can work for all of us if we but indulge in a similar journey of self-exposure.
It is in this vein that I direct you to read The Split-Screen Marriage, Ben Dolnick's incisive article in the January 4th issue of the New York Times Magazine. It is a compelling look at this paradox of shared but unshared relationships and is worth the read as a supplement to the play.
It is refreshing when a theatrical offering like You Say Tomato can remind us through humor of the "the canyon of ignorance that cuts across every human relationship" and what we must do to remove the impediments to honest communication.
For a glorious eighty minutes of revelatory comedy, take your spouse, your date, your fiancé to the Herberger Theater Center's Stage West and get your endorphins into high gear. The show runs through January 25th.
Photo credit to Steve Carr