Uptown cheerfully skewers nuptial bliss in Shoulda Been You

Written by Barbara Anselmi and Brian Hargrove, It Shoulda Been You is a romantic, musical comedy that delights in confounding expectations. It begins on a wedding day. But it’s not Rebecca’s (the bride) story, it’s her older sister, Jenny’s. Judy Steinberg, the mother, is frantic and fussing over every detail, though she and her husband, Murray, are rooting as much for Becky’s former flame, Marty, as her fiance, Brian Howard. Brian’s parents aren’t exactly crazy about the match, either, especially Brian’s mother, Georgette. She has one of the funniest solos (Where Did I Go Wrong?) in which she confides trying everything to turn Brian gay, and be the only “girl” in his life. It Shoulda Been You flaunts the line between sensitivity and cynicism (it could easily have been titled Marriage Bites) but manages a good-natured mix of warmth and irony, finding humor in life’s disappointments without diving into despair.

Shoulda opens with a wry, introspective number by Jenny, “I Never Wanted This” leading us to believe she’s the bride. It’s soon established that while mother Judy is busy coordinating the event, she’s never too busy to make Jenny feel like a failure. Being the older sister, Jenny should have been married first. From there, the complications just keep piling on: a feud between the future mothers-in-law, a stalking ex-boyfriend, a last-minute prenup, to name just a few. Anselmi and Hargrove have worked up a successful formula, playing on the tension between what traditional marriage is supposed to be, and the problems that arise when actual life interferes.

Digs are taken from the culture clash when a Gentile marries a Jewish girl (all in good fun) and of course, that only seems to be the least of the headaches to come. Jenny wistfully bemoans feeling excluded when she’s the only one single, but by the end, matrimony doesn’t look all that alluring. The mothers are self-indulgent, Brian’s dad is hostile (though supposedly cordial) all the familial ideas we celebrate are diminished. A lot of the more tender emotions are expressed in song, and often the sweetness that breaks through in the midst of our fractured, flawed humanity. Numerous playwrights and composers have held up marriage and heterocentrist coupling to scrutiny (Stephen Sondheim, Neil Simon, David Mamet) and Hargrove and Anselmi do the same in, It Shoulda Been You, spoofing and joshing, pricking the glossy bubble but avoiding the dark side. Some of the plot points are a bit of a reach, but no more so than you might expect.

The cast and orchestra are sublime. This is a demanding script, calling for nuance, versatility and sharp comic skills. The performers are confident and bright, with the chops to understand the crucial need for accurate timing and tone. The dance numbers are clever and sophisticated, most of the punchlines fresh and unexpected. The actors here realize the importance of letting the audience share in the pleasure they take, and that’s exactly what they do.

Uptown Players presents It Shoulda Been You, playing March 24th-April 9th, 2017. Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd, Dallas, Texas 75219. 214-219-2718. uptownplayers.org

Upstart’s Waiting for Lefty is medicine for the frustrated soul

Clifford Odets co-founded The Group in 1931, a theatre of authentic, blue collar social justice, that focused on ethnic diversity and the misery of the working class. In 1935, Waiting for Lefty burst on the scene, an immersive piece that drops us smack in the fray of a union meeting, illustrated by vignettes of various members. One of Clifford Odets’ great strengths is avoiding abstract rhetoric in favor of vivid, literal illumination. It was his first professional production, and a rousing success. In the same vein, Upstart Productions has revived this call to action, in a warehouse not far from Fair Park, offering Pay What You Want, and a stirring theatrical event. In these days of tumultuous political debate, it’s encouraging to find some brave, raw, confrontational theatre to quench our famished souls.

Waiting for Lefty begins with a lot of bitching and commotion: taxi driver’s wages are ridiculously low, what are we gonna do, where’s Lefty, this sort of thing. Testosterone and tempers are running high, and Odets has a gift for pyrotechnical, fierce, poetic dialogue. The first cut away from the core plot is a wrenching scrap between Joe and Edna. Edna’s trying to make their home work on a shrinking budget and Joe’s walking a tightrope between long hours and keeping a job during the Depression. There’s no quaint humor behind their desperate bickering. It helps a little to understand they wouldn’t be fighting so hard if they didn’t care. Then there’s the medical intern struggling with the specter of antisemitism. His devotion to his patients (however destitute) is heart-breaking. There’s a scientist tempted by an extravagant salary to spy on a colleague. An unemployed actor gets wind of a political meeting by a savvy receptionist.

The exhilarating, empowering idea that informs Waiting for Lefty is finding the moxie to defy corruption. The refusal to participate in your own diminishment and oppression. Time and again the characters are asked to forfeit their humanity in the midst of poverty and gnawing hunger. We understand all too well the leverage of those in control, how they try to fob off capitalism as the moral high-ground, as the be-all and end-all of western civilization. Odets exposes this sham with cogent mastery. His language is rough, pugilistic and utterly convincing. When the underprivileged and ill-used rise to haul open the doors and march against intolerance and exploitation, the drumming pounds in our ears, long after the show has ended.

Upstart Productions (with Ash Studios) presents Waiting for Lefty, playing March 15th-April 1st, 2017. 3203 Ash Lane, Dallas, Texas 75226. 214-923-3619. www.upstarttheater.com.

T3’s Passing Strange a profoundly moving experience

A young, African American man with a gift for music sets out to find “the real” (code for authentic) in the midst of a world fraught with hypocrisy, political posturing and pleasure-driven distractions. Something of a mashup by way of Company, Pippin and maybe a dash of The Wizard of Oz, our hero, listed in the program as “Youth” begins his journey in the church choir, where a friend confides they belong to a church where black people only pass as black. Suggesting perhaps they lack the rage appropriate to oppression? The discrepancy between what it means to be and act black (in 1980’s America) is a subject explored often in Passing Strange, a rock and roll musical written by Heidi Rodewald and Stew. Whether or not this question is answered, it’s a compelling show, filled with intense frustration and sorrow, anger and regret.

Our young protagonist travels to Amsterdam, believing the gravitas of Europe will help earn his chops as an artist. He falls in with a group of kindred spirits, quickly discovering that casual sex and recreational drugs are readily available. Finally deciding bliss makes no motivation for creativity, he moves on, leaving girlfriend Marianna, and the tribe behind. Next he travels to West Berlin, where art is driven by class struggle and a profound distrust of middle class values. He embraces Desi, an articulate and tumultuous activist, who pushes him to examine his identity as an expatriated African American, living in postwar Germany. As he considers various philosophies and metaphysical positions, he grows further and further apart from his mother. Bourgeois though she may be, she truly cares for him, and even when the other members of his group travel home for Christmas, he doesn’t understand he’s taking a very precious love for granted. “They make me crazy”, one of them explains, “but they’re my family.”

Our hero, it seems, hasn’t lived long enough to grasp that genuine love, whatever the source, is rare in this rough, cold, desolate world of ours. He comes by it so easily, he doesn’t realize it’s not an endless resource he can neglect. Passing Strange submerges us in this funny, painful, cyclonic fable, with oceans of versatile, soulful, often introspective and fierce music. There’s so much thrashing about I’m not sure what it amounts to, in retrospect. Does it come to more than the sum of its parts? That being said, it’s a pleasurable, sweet, profoundly moving experience.

Theatre Three presents Passing Strange, playing March 2nd-26th, 2017. Regional Premiere. Book and Lyrics by Stew. Music by Heidi Rodewald and Stew. 2800 Routh Street, Suite 168, Dallas, Texas 75201. 214-871-3300. theatre3dallas.com

Yemaya’s Belly at Cara Mia will stoke your famished soul

A powerful, engaging, scintillating work of Folklore Theatre, Yemaya’s Belly finds the intersection between the literal and fanciful. Jesus is a boy who likes to play dominoes with his Uncle Jelin and his buddy, Tico. He picks up essential guy stuff from them. How to drink, bluff, swagger, treat the ladies. Do what’s right. He probably sees himself as a small man, learning to make his maleness actual in a tough world. Jesus lives in the small village of Magdalena, not too far from the jazzy, lurid city with its temptations and transgressions. His father runs a farm, and his mother sends Jesus out every day to bring dad his coffee, and respite from arduous labor. Jesus visits the city with his Uncle and a shop that sells groceries like Coca-Cola, SPAM and coconuts. When a sudden, devastating fire breaks out in Magdalena (before Jesus and Jeli could even try to rescue them) the parents are gone. Overcome with rage, disgust and despair, Jesus resolves to book passage on a raft with Maya, bound for Amerika.

Written by Quiara Alegria Hudes (who collaborated with Lin-Manuel Miranda on In the Heights) Yemaya’s Belly unlocks mysteries by teasing us with dreamlike, intuitive imagery. Naivete and awe take us to a realm where linear logic has no answers and holds no comfort. Folklore is a kind of special enchantment. It transforms ugliness into poetry and adventure. Perhaps something sacred. Once we release our grip, and look beyond face value, merciful truths emerge. An intoxicating, alluring (priestess?) dances hypnotically for Jelin and Jesus, producing a single feather. Jesus nicks it from her impulsively and from then on, it becomes infinitely more than its material presence. People sense its exceptional value, though it doesn’t look unique. As Hudes pulls us deeper and deeper into this melancholy (yet exhilarating) story of a traumatized lad who summons the moxie to sail to America on a raft, we know it’s ridiculous, but we also know he must.

In addition to its rich, astonishing blend of sensual and metaphysical metaphors, Yemaya’s Belly never conceals political allegory. No longer does the right honor our crucial role as a haven for the downtrodden, the desperate, the diligent. Jesus believes America brims with possibilities. That he will be welcome, because he is good-hearted and seeks an end to suffering. So many have cherished America as the land of fresh beginnings. When small icons of American pop culture find their way to the third world, they must feel other-worldly and miraculous. Talismanic. Hudes connects us to Jesus by our mutual need for something beyond constant despair and disappointment. Adrift on their raft. Starving and unquenched for days. Jesus and Maya begin to hallucinate. When Maya believes she glimpses the green shore in distance, your heart thunders.

Cara Mia Theatre presents Yemaya’s Belly playing March 4th-19th, 2017. (Dallas Premiere) 2600 Live Oak Street, Dallas, Texas 75204. 214-516-0706. www.caramiatheatre.org

Fierce and fearless artists of Ochre House rattle your soul with second premiere of Dr. Bobaganush

Matthew Posey, genius behind The Ochre House, writer and director of most of their shows, has a unique gift for creating absurd, strange, shticky, profane, hilarious pieces with a cynical undercurrent. I say this with great admiration. Cynicism is often a powerful impetus for brilliant satire. Dr. Bobaganush is a bold, funny, fierce indictment of the holocaust and our current regime. As an elderly Jewish friend of mine once pointed out, the parallels are ugly and unsettling, and Posey has used his magnificent craft to stir us to the quick. You don’t know whether to weep or guffaw. It’s not difficult to watch until the very end.

Dr. Bobaganush (and his Carnival of Wonders) travels the European hinterlands with his family in a wagon, a mash-up of slapstick, prophesy and prestidigitation. Ochre House shows have a tendency to blend the comedic, oracular and grotesque and this one is no exception. The characters include Anne Frank and Mr. and Mrs. Van Daan. Anne is dressed to suggest Dorothy Gale of Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz series. When she spends the night in Bobaganush’s wagon, his decrepit dad chases her sporting (what must be) an enormous erection. Ugh! Someone needs to put grandpa on a leash. For all the stuff and nonsense the doctor and his clan offer as entertainment, he undoubtedly has access to genuine psychic powers. While Anne and the Van Daans flee the Nazis, he senses something nefarious in the air. It’s obvious to the audience he’s on the right track, but at that time, no one could believe that such a ridiculous, unbalanced little megalomaniac could win such widespread advocacy, or wield such pervasive, toxic influence.

As I have already suggested, you never know what to expect when you visit The Ochre House, but it’s all to the good. For some reason, Posey’s bizarre combinations of the traumatic, banal, humorous and vaudevillian works inexplicably well, and no one who loves theatre should miss the opportunity to go. As you may have heard, Posey is recovering from a horrible assault, forcing them to cancel the run of Dr. Bobaganush, and more’s the pity. We need artists like Posey, now more than ever. I sincerely hope and pray that with our love, good wishes and support he will be restored to full health, and this phenomenal, miraculous, necessary show can be expeditiously revived. God speed to Matthew Posey and his remarkable team of actors, creators, and musicians.

The Ochre House Theatre: Dr. Bobaganush. 825 Exposition Avenue, Dallas, Texas 75226. 214-826-6273. www.ochrehosetheatre.org


Doctor Bobaganush: Matthew Posey

Madame Bobaganush: Marti Etheridge

Anne: Elizabeth Evans

Peter: Christian Taylor

Boobi: Chris Sykes

Mrs. Van Daan: Cassie Bann

Mr. Van Daan: Kevin Grammer

Frau Kina Hora: Carla Parker

Herr Lipschitz: Mitchell Parrack


Woodwinds: Jeffrey Barnes

Percussion: Bobby Fajardo, Stefan Gonzales

Bass: Aaron Gonzales

Accordian: Earl Norman

Lead Vocal: Trey Pendergrass

Guitar: Gregg Prickett

Creative Team:

Composer/Music Director: Earl Norman

Lyrics: Matthew Posey and Mitchell Parrack

Scenic Artist: Izk Davies

Costume Design: Amie Carson

Set Design: Matthew Posey

Props and Puppet Design: Justin Locklear

Lighting Design: Kevin Grammer

Choreography: Delilah Arrebola

Carpenters: Justin Locklear, Kevin Grammer and Mitchell Parrack

Stage Management: Madeleine Morris

House Management: Cynthia Webb

House Staff: Ruth Fajardo

Photography: Richard Hart

Graphic Designer: Jeremy Word

Theatre Frisco’s Broadway Bound is wry, heart-breaking, brave

It’s understood Neil Simon is a gifted comic playwright. But the cynicism, the irony that makes his humor so pointed and resonant, doesn’t get much attention. In all fairness, that dark streak is more evident in some pieces than others. Early in his career he wrote The Gingerbread Lady for Maureen Stapleton, a rueful, wry comedy tracking the journey of a woman recovering from alcoholism, before terms like: “enabling, dependency, sobriety” were part of the popular vernacular. Broadway Bound is probably the most melancholy of Simon’s autobiographical trilogy (including Brighton Beach Memoirs and Biloxi Blues) though its salient aspect is also humor. Simon attempts a deeper intimacy, by owning his shadow. His flaws are not divulged in some tortured moment of excruciating humility, but simply. Plainly.

Eugene and Stanley Jerome are brothers, living with their parents, Kate and Jack, and their grandpa, Ben. Like many Jewish working-class families in New York, they live in Brighton Beach. Their cultural identity affects their attitudes, values and how they live, in the same way it affects Latin Catholics, WASPS and cold-water Baptists. Back in the day, Grandpa Ben was a vociferous Socialist. And he still is. Stanley and Eugene are starting to hit their stride as comic writers. Kate and Jack are growing more and more distant from one another. The animosity is tangible, but no one talks about it. Eugene’s astonishing gift is his ability to confront painful truths with his subversive, wise-ass wit. Imagine the family dog was hit by a car. Your mother serves dinner that evening. She asks how you like the pot roast, and you say: “I dunno. Usually I’d just sneak it to Sophie.” [This is strictly an example. It’s not in the play.]

The brothers feel increasingly frustrated and contentious. But they steadily climb higher in the entertainment business. When a comedy sketch Eugene and Stanley wrote is broadcast, their whole family gathers, and all their friends, throughout the neighborhood. Afterwards, Kate is genuinely proud (but distracted) Grandfather only likes political satire, and Jack is insulted. He’s convinced the two were taking jabs at him. This marks a turning point for Eugene, who realizes rage is his ticket to real success, if he mixes it with sly humor. Stanley encourages Eugene to befriend “that son-of-a-bitch” lurking inside, because it will take him far. What follows is astounding.

Eugene’s mother tells the anecdote of the night she danced with George Raft. But for some reason, this time it’s different. For the first time Eugene sees Kate, before she was his mother, consumed with responsibilities. She shows him how to dance, and he confides to us the dubious, profound rush of falling in love and showing up his dad. Neil Simon must know we know it’s him, but he takes that dangerous step – hoping we’ll understand. He trusts us with his broken, sad, frail humanity. What Sherry Etzel (Kate) and Quinn Angell (Eugene) achieve here (with Director Evelyn Davis) is remarkable. Who knew they could take us to this reckless, inconsolable realm of leaving boyhood behind? This is a diligent, inspired, dedicated cast. Go. See Broadway Bound. Bring someone dear to you and five handkerchiefs.

Theatre Frisco presents Broadway Bound, playing February 24th-March 12th, 2017. 8004 North Dallas Parkway, Suite 200, Frisco, TX 75034. (Call and ask for directions.) 972-370-2266. www.theatrefrisco.com

See KDT’s harrowing, poetic, splendid Paper Flowers

I have often despaired of trying to express unequivocal enthusiasm for theatre that is disturbing, harrowing, intrusive, and yet ferocious and brave. Theatre often grapples with and articulates a world that (beneath the surface) is terrifying and grotesque. So when Kitchen Dog Theater (God bless them) engages with contradictory needs between our raw humanity and what culture demands, I find the experience exhilarating, overwhelming, flamboyant and everything that fierce, defiant, contemporary theatre must be. There will (of course) always be need for pleasure-driven, blissfully ridiculous comedy, but certainly also enjoyment in even the bleakest of theatrical narratives. Great theatre has an intuitive feel for turning emotion and struggle into extravagant, spectacular, though precise, imagery and sacrament. Sometimes it helps to explore the frantic and abysmal. It makes the unknown less daunting.

Eva, a sad, lonely, middle-aged (but never pathetic) merchant who loves to paint, helps a homeless guy by letting him carry her groceries. When he refuses remuneration, she hastily tries to get rid of him, even when he explains there are men outside, waiting to kill him. “Not my problem,” she replies, without seeming unkind. But somehow the guy turns it around, rather quickly, and she offers him food and temporary refuge. His actual name is Roberto, but he prefers the nickname his cronies gave him: “The Hake”. (A hake is a vicious reptile that is something like a cross between a piranha and a cottonmouth.) While humbly eating soup, he sets a pattern: slipping in degradation, disguised as concern.

When she returns from her store the next day, she discovers he’s created truly impressive fancies and practical basketry from her Sunday paper, a commodity usually read and discarded quickly. Paper Flowers is rich with a metaphor, top to bottom. There is something disarming about this aspect of his personality. He’s charismatic and subdued, but even before we see his behavior in her absence, something is unmistakably off about him. Unsavory. As she begins to offer more tender feelings, incidents that should alarm her, fail to do so. When she discovers Goldie (her canary) is not actually missing, because “Hake” killed her, she is flabbergasted. And yet she doesn’t kick him out. Running throughout this surreal, troubling courtship is the vague suggestion that Eva’s charity is fueled by sexual desire. Possibly. But often it works out that women give sex for love, and men, love for sex. But then, if this snake has such contempt for Eva’s supposed “neediness,” no one’s forcing him to participate.

Days after I watched Paper Flowers,  I realized how utterly it had gotten under my skin. It is subversive and cunning, dragging us into a cluster of passions in a flagrant, chaotic, implacable way. The connection between Eva and Hake. Is it about romance, libido, empathy, alms-giving, rage, pride? The bread of shame? Hake seems to keep mistaking sympathy for pity. But if Eva (in Hake’s view) could never comprehend his situation, than I suppose the bourgeois are incapable of anything but pity. Subsequently, Hake cannot accept anything offered out of love (genuine or not). He must take it by force. He makes a speech at the end, that amounts to this. We get so lost in what the other needs us to be, that we lose our identity. There is probably something to that.

Kitchen Dog Theater presents Paper Flowers playing February 17th – March 11th, 2017. 2600 North Stemmons Freeway, # 180, Dallas, Texas 75207. 214-953-1055. www.kitchendogtheater.org

Still time to catch Uptown’s splendid, sparkling Broadway Our Way

What makes Uptown’s annual fundraiser so appealing is its deceptively subversive premise. Men sing Broadway tunes originally written for women, women sing pieces intended for men. In addition to other logistical nightmares, this requires transposing the keys, to accommodate a different range. We’ve certainly become accustomed to gender-bending when personalities like Dr. Frankenfurter, Ru Paul, and Dame Edna Everage have entered mainstream pop culture, but Broadway Our Way is something else again. It’s so easy to forget that live theatre exploits the advantage of spectacle. Consider the moment when a priest lifts the host and chalice heavenward. Broadway Our Way (BOW) provides alternative context for these musical narratives. Sometimes they’re sly. Sometimes ribald. Sometimes shamelessly starry-eyed and melancholy. We are now 17 years into the 21st Century and dear God we seem (more than ever) to need this demonstration, this assertion that there’s nothing criminal or morally bankrupt about being smitten with someone of the same gender. I wonder sometimes if BOW is so saliently pleasure-driven that its intoxicating political power isn’t obvious. I want to put my feet up, darlin, and soak it all in.

In the second act the milieu was private Catholic School. Most of the performers dressed as students and the raucous homage to West Side Story’s Gymnasium Dance was punchy and inspired. Later the women sang The Bitch of Living from Spring Awakening, a virile, male, angry, sex-tortured song if there ever was one, and did so with palpable rage. In the first act there was some cowboy, prettyboy, roughtrade and waiter flavored hi-jinks: guys waggling scrumptious behinds and flirting with each other with impunity. There were special “guest” appearances by those Duchesses of Drag, Coy Covington and B.J. Cleveland (AbFab’s Eddie and Patsy and Liza Minnelli) and Janelle Lutz reprised her phenomenal Judy Garland. There were yearning torch songs and the gentle irony that comes from longtime, monogamous love affairs. Brett Warner (The Night Dolly Parton Was Almost Mine) Alex Heika (Pulled) and Amy Stevenson (My Eyes Adored You) reminded us that BOW never lacks for delicious, silly, often earthy comic relief.

The cast of Broadway Our Way donated their time and was ready to roll with only two weeks of rehearsal. Kudos to B.J. Cleveland, who found the perfect mix of promotional pitch, jubilant anthems to queer pride, tender explorations of same-gender devotion and giddy hilarity. Dallas is very blessed to to have a company like Uptown Players that provides warmth, refuge and sense of purpose to the sixth largest LGBT Community in America. But apart from their nefarious, hidden agenda (shudder) is a team of artists who converge to create a show of glorious, impeccable quality.

Uptown Players presents their 15th Annual Fundraiser, Broadway Our Way, playing March 2nd-5th, 2017. Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Boulevard, Dallas, Texas 75219. 214-219-2718. uptownplayers.org

Don’t miss Undermain’s eloquent, compelling Galileo

Bertolt Brecht, a playwright skilled in raising humanitarian issues, would seem ideal in our present, tumultuous political climate. Though Galileo might not have been an obvious choice. Undermain, though, was savvy to stage Galileo. However subtle the analogy, a brilliant astronomer challenging the nature of our relationship to the heavens, feels perfect for the occasion. Galileo’s research and revelations flew in the face of the papacy, who feared the implications if earth was not at the center of the universe.

Ironically, Galileo wasn’t pompous or lofty. He wasn’t seeking notoriety, though he appreciated his increased earning abilities. He was a very practical, down to earth scientist, with a burning hunger for knowledge and grasping the truth. For him, truth and piety weren’t incompatible. It’s intriguing to note that Brecht never lionizes Galileo, nor does he diminish him. Early in the story, Galileo appropriates the idea of the telescope (improves upon) and cashes in on it. He seems to take great satisfaction in cracking open the mysterious world and sharing what he discovers with his students. All things considered, he’s fairly humble (which is not to say obsequious). Yet the power structure perceives him as an anarchist. An iconoclast. Galileo simply strives to bring civilization out of darkness.

Undermain has created a splendid theatrical allegory here. They capitalize on the contrast between Galileo’s pragmatic demeanor, and the scintillating cosmos that never fails to astonish him. Bruce DuBose (as Galileo) captures the essence of his genius, who is cynical enough to recognize ignorance and superstition, but credulous enough to revere the miraculous, even when it’s made comprehensible.

I was surprised that they used period costumes, but Amanda Capshaws designs are rich, vibrant and witty. John Arnone’s set design transforms the stage into a kind of star chart, or altar. The delicate, effulgent constellations are subdued, yet dazzling, evoking that ache we feel when gazing skyward. Undermain’s Galileo grapples with humanity’s never-ending upheaval over issues that may not actually have anything to do with the quality of existence. Then rises above it.

Undermain presents Galileo, playing February 8th-March 5th, 2017. 3200 Main Street, Dallas, Texas 75226. 214-747-5515. www.undermain.org [ Free Covered Parking at 3300 Commerce Street.]

Closing weekend for Theatre Britain’s crisp, clever Will You Still Love Me?

Celia and Jeremy Winthrop are newlyweds on their honeymoon. After a series of mishaps at the resort, they decide to return early. Jeremy has offered the use of their country cottage to the Wards and the Jessels, two couples under the mistaken impression they’re still out of town. When Celia and Jeremy arrive, finding no evidence of other inhabitants, they settle in, assuming they’ll have the place to themselves. Jeremy, being a rugged, virile, freshly married young man who’s already had his consummation privileges delayed, is eager to get busy. Celia however, keeps putting him off, reminding him they’re two civilized adults, with no need to jump each other, in the heat of reckless urgency.

Needless to say, Jeremy and Celia’s pastoral, posh cottage is roomy enough to make it possible (no matter how implausible) for the two to be absent when the Wards and Jessels show up separately, unaware and unannounced. To further complicate matters, Sara Ward is having an affair with Humphrey Jessel. And (you guessed it) Peregrine Ward is seeing Thelma Jessel. Each pair believes no one else is there. Each character spends as much time considering their missing spouse as they do romancing. When Jeremy and Celia discover two of their friends are also staying there (though promiscuously) they decide to be casual and sophisticated. Until they realize they’ve got four guests, instead of two. For the rest of the play, they assiduously keep one pair from discovering the other.

Written by Brian Clemens and Dennis Spooner, Will You Still Love Me in the Morning is a light, clever, sex farce without sex, or strangely enough, much cynicism. There’s no shortage of libido (or guilt) and Spooner and Clemens pit the cerebral against the carnal, repeatedly. These hapless folks would probably spend more time making love, if they weren’t so busy navigating the realm of discreet transgression. The newlyweds exhaust themselves trying to protect the four from discovering their partner’s infidelity. We’re caught up in the playwrights’ frantic attempts to spare each character’s feelings, before the shiny penny drops. As badly as everyone wants to engage in rowdy sex, circumstances conspire to interfere. Even the newlyweds, who must surely be entitled to some matrimonial bliss, are denied the opportunity. There is also a plumber whose attempts to plug a broken pipe (thank you, Dr. Freud) are prolonged and futile.

Directed by Sue Birch this cast: Bryan Brooks (Jeremy Winthrop) Robin Clayton (Celia Winthrop) Nick Haley (Peregrine Ward) Shea Smitherman (Sara Ward) Jake Shanahan (Humphrey Jessel)
Kim Winnubst (Thelma Jessel) and Lauren Hearn (Syd Clancy) could put Cirque de Soleil to shame with their agile hijinks and shenanigans. (How do they do it?) This kind of comedy can get old very quickly and it is to their great credit that Will You Still comes off with such charm and aplomb.

Theatre Britain presents Will You Still Love Me in the Morning, playing February 10th-March 5th, 2017. Cox Playhouse, 1517 Avenue H, Plano, Texas 75074.972-490-4202. www.theatre-britain.com