Review: FAITHFUL CHEATERS at Trinity Repertory Company

By: Apr. 27, 2017

FAITHFUL CHEATERS by Deborah Salem Smith is having its world-première production right now at Trinity Repertory Company in Providence. This is a screwball comedy that would have made George S. Kaufman proud. The play has four categories of characters: confused, zany, zanier, and zaniest. According to Artistic director Curt Columbus, "FAITHFUL CHEATERS takes political and personal identities and smashes them together. At a time when our society is examining how we think about marriage and commitment, this play uses those issues as a leaping off point...for comedy." The cast includes Trinity Rep resident Acting Company members Rebecca Gibel as Poppy Stevens, Stephen Thorne as her husband Theo, Anne Scurria and Trinity newcomer Karen McDonald as Poppy's parents, Mauro Hantman as Phil, and Charlie Thurston as Butsy Benini, and a talented group they are.

Okay, such as it is, the plot: Poppy and Theo are always working. Neither has time to pay attention to their marriage. They have each been unfaithful in their own way, and, with the future of their marriage on the line, they are betting on the purchase of a weekend getaway to save their marriage. Will the weekend away with Poppy's meddling mothers, spotty cell service, an unanticipated co-inhabitant, and a bizarre interloper save or kill their union?? Will Theo's discovery of a monogamy drug save their marriage? Who is Phil anyway? On this flimsy coat hanger is the expensive suit of FAITHFUL CHEATERS hung.

What makes the play work is its willingness to plunge directly into farce: to mix spit takes with bawdy humor, mistaken identity, double entendres, slapstick, a bear costume, and multiple malapropisms and see what happens. What happens is mostly very funny. While each character has a moment or two, special credit goes to Anne Scurria as the sex-crazed mother, and to Mauro Hantman as the campsite's zoned-out neighbor. Steven Thorne is always good, but for crying out loud, will he ever age?

Christina Todesco's set has the feel of a real lakeside retreat; a couple of shacks on a sandy beach, a fire pit, some lovely stylized trees as backdrop, and a centrally located stairway to a larger cabin to give the actors something to run up and down. Daniel Kotlowitz's lighting creates some nice sunsets, and David Remedios has added the delightful sound of a lake lapping the shore.

Deborah Salem Smith is the playwright-in-residence at Trinity Rep, and a Huntington Theatre Playwriting Fellow. She is an accomplished playwright (Love Alone, Boots on the Ground, Some Things Are Private). While this play is very funny, it does not exactly have and ending. We see the unhappy couple transported to a moment of transcendence by a sunset. Come to think of it, that's not such a bad ending.

FAITHFUL CHEATERS by Deborah Salem Smith is playing in the downstairs Dowling Theater of Trinity Repertory Company, 201 Washington St, Providence and will run until May 21. Evening performances are at 7:30, and matinees start at 2:00. If you are interested in a discussion of the play, a discussion with the playwright will take place after the matinee on May10. The theater is wheelchair accessible with accessible bathrooms. Tickets run between $25 and $71, plus fees for telephone and online orders. For more information and to purchase tickets, call the box office at (401) 351-4242 or visit Trinity Rep's website at

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