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BWW Reviews: New Line Theatre's Production of I LOVE MY WIFE

With their funky and fun production of I Love My Wife, New Line Theatre begins their 20th season with a trip back to the swinging seventies, when the last dying embers of the sexual revolution were still smoldering in the suburbs. It was a time when collars were broad, chests were hairy, and polyester was the fabric of choice. And though the obvious reference point for some might be Paul Mazursky's 1969 film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, the two are actually quite dissimilar, except for the fact that two couples wind up sharing the same bed. But, I Love My Wife is more concerned with friendships and making connections. New Line's presentation of this perfectly charming adult comedy is superbly cast and directed, and well worth your time and attention.

Alvin has a happy marriage with Cleo, but when his buddy Wally begins trumpeting the virtues of threesomes, Alvin begins to desire something more. The problem is, he'd really like to invite Wally's wife Monica along for the ride, so to speak. He's able to convince Cleo, but she's more interested in partaking of Wally's services, and so the threesome turns into a foursome. But, in the midst of their decadent tryst Alvin realizes just how much he values Cleo. Maybe it's the fact that he can see that Wally covets her as well, and that makes her more appealing to him.

Todd Schaefer does strong work as Alvin, and even though his character's behavior is less than stellar, especially where Cleo is concerned, he somehow makes him likable, or at least forgivable. He stands out vocally on "Monica", an ode to the object of his desire, and "Everybody is Turnin' On", a hilarious song that finds the group getting stoned to loosen up before they all hop into bed together. Emily Berry is outstanding as his wife Cleo, and she really shines on the number "Love Revolution", as she comes to grips with Alvin's sudden decision.

Jeffrey Wright is terrific as the macho Wally, and makes a vivid impression with his leisure suit and gold chain. He has a couple of nice moments as well, with "By Threes" allowing him to expound on his sexual proclivities, while "Lovers on Christmas Eve" provides him with a bittersweet duet with his confused wife, Monica. Sarah Armstrong is also very good as Monica, who's genuinely hurt when Wally finally brings up the prospect that Alvin has proposed. Armstrong also shares a tender duet with Berry on "Someone Wonderful I Missed".

Zachary Allen Farmer, Joel Hackbarth, and Troy Turnipseed provide a continually amusing presence as the Greek chorus: Harvey, Stanley, and Quentin, respectively.

Directors Scott Miller and Alison Helmer have done sharp work getting the actors into the proper 1970's frame of mind, and they keep the tone light, and the action moving along at a brisk pace. Some of the jokes and references may be dated, but Miller and his game cast make them all seem fresh and funny again with their considerable energy and infectious enthusiasm. Todd Schaefer's set has the right look and feel of the era, and neatly changes to suit the various locations, with Trisha Bakula's props adding to the overall vibe. Kenneth Zinkl's lighting keeps the action in clear focus, and Thom Crain's costumes are tacky, polyester delights that had me cringing with familiarity, and Zachary Allen Farmer's wig looks like an inspired tribute to Matthew McConaughey's golden locks in Dazed and Confused.

Justin Smolik (piano/conductor), Sue Goldford (keyboard), Dave Hall (bass), Michael Mason (guitar/banjo), and Clancy Newell (drums) do exceptional work interpreting Cy Coleman's jazz tinged score, which runs the musical gamut, but consistently retains his signature style and warmth.

New Line Theatre's splendidly funny and tuneful production of I Love My Wife continues through October 23, 2010.

From This Author - Chris Gibson