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BWW Reviews: Keegan Theatre's Deliciously Naughty Comedy THINGS YOU SHOULDN'T SAY PAST MIDNIGHT

Be prepared for your gut to hurt after watching Keegan Theatre's Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight because you'll have been laughing for the last 85 minutes. Peter Ackerman's deliciously naughty bedroom comedy perfectly captures the confusion arising from when someone says the unthinkable in the early morning hours. Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight takes a situation well known to every couple and explores it in a manner both touching and hilarious!

Ben (Michael Innocenti) and Nancy (Caroline Wolfson) have been dating for six months. One night while having sex, Nancy, lost in the ecstasy of the act, insults Ben's Jewish heritage. After a bad fight, she retreats to the apartment of her best friend Grace (Allison Corke). Suddenly, Nancy and Ben find themselves discussing their relationship on a 3 a.m. conference call with Grace, her hit man boyfriend Gene (Peter Finnegan), Gene's brother and Grace's therapist Mark (Kevin Hasser) and his older, much older lover Mr. Abramson (Timothy Lynch).

What makes Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight so fresh and funny is that Ackerman perfectly captures the reality of being a sexually liberated, late twenties couple. He understands that dating no longer involves courtships and that each relationship is unique. However, despite these differences couples makes it work in their own way. With Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight Ackerman presents us with three distinct couples all working to solve the same problem: Ben and Nancy's relationship.

Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight contains a plethora of excellent one-liners and double entendres, but Ackerman's script reaches its zenith in the play's tender moments. From the beginning he does something smart by straying from the typical format of romantic comedies by having Nancy insult Ben. He could have easily made Ben say the wrong thing, but then the play would have come off like every other B-movie that gets released around Valentine's Day in which the guy says something stupid first. Ackerman's script doesn't strive to just be funny; it really wants to know how Nancy could say something so unthinkable and that's why the play is terrific.

All of the couples are perfectly matched and Ackerman's script seems to unite them with a common theme, value or trait. Wolfson and Innocenti give heartfelt performances as their Nancy and Ben struggle to understand what went wrong. Both of their eyes contain a deep sense of loss. Looking into them we can feel their pain and ultimate desire to understand what happened?

Now contrast that with the wonderfully wacky and eccentric performances of Corke and Finnegan who bring Grace and Gene's animated relationship alive. Corke gives a spirited, no-holds-barred performance as Grace. All she wants is sex, with Gene. Meanwhile Finnegan's Gene is more restrained but just as passionate about Grace. Finnegan has the challenge of playing a character that has the opposing traits of being a hit man and mild-mannered lover. To make this work, Finnegan wisely has Gene compartmentalize the various factions of his life. When he's with Grace he's a lover, but the moment their security is threatened he easily switches into hit man-mode.

Finally that leaves Hasser and Lynch. They may not have the most lines in the play, but they deliver the biggest laughs of the evening. Lighting Designer Allan Weeks mischievously dims the lights for their entrance causing the audience to lean in, struggling to make out what's happening only to be surprised by their actions. In more than a decade of theatergoing in DC, never have I heard an audience, including myself, laugh, snort and chuckle as loud as they did during Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight at that moment.

Hasser and Lynch certainly play the moment up, but they do so without it becoming campy. As Gene's brother and Grace's psychiatrist, Hasser gives Mark a demeanor of measured curiosity. The psychiatrist in him wants to help Nancy while the friend in him wants to gossip. Even though little is known about Mr. Abramson, Lynch wisely uses his character's advanced age to act as a secondary psychiatrist to Hasser. Lynch then infuses his psychiatric opinions with the ornery behavior that accustoms a man of Abramson's seniority.

Colin Smith's direction keeps Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight pace fluid, which is ideal for a comedy. The entire production is perfectly timed and there are no unnecessary or wasted moments. Smith's direction never allows either the dramatic or comedic moments to linger too long, thus preventing them from becoming stale.

Innocenti and Smith's set design uses a multi-tiered stage to showcase the three bedrooms and add definition to the location of each couple. One of the crafty details of their set are the slight variations with each couple's bed. For example, Ben is a graduate student and so we see him and Nancy on a pull-out couch.

Keegan Theatre's production of Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight maybe a late entry in DC's 2013-14 theatrical calendar, but it stands out as one of the funniest plays of the season. This production perfectly matches Keegan Theatre's talented acting ensemble with Ackerman's fresh, modern and sharp script.

Running Time: 85 minutes with no intermission.

Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight plays thru June 7th at Keegan Theatre 1742 Church St NW, Washington, DC 20036. To purchase tickets please call (703) 892-0202 or purchase them online.

Graphic: Michael Innocenti and Caroline Wolfson in Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight at Keegan Theatre. Credit: C. Stanley Photography

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From This Author Benjamin Tomchik