Review: 'Relatively Speaking,' this JCC play hits the mark
02:37 PM, Dec 09, 2013
Three is company when it comes to writers Ethan Coen, Elaine May and Woody Allen in a variety pack of one-act plays that pivot between high-spirited farce and dark-edged desperation in JCC CenterStage’s production of Relatively Speaking.
In the first of the trilogy is Coen’s Talking Cure, a fast-moving script that focuses on exchanges between prison psychiatrist (Gregory Ludek) and his loose-cannon patient Larry (a believable Jeff Siuda) who is in serious need of anger control management.
In a flashback scene, we watch a tense, acerbic exchange between Larry’s parents (Brittany Lynn Wolff and Brian Ziemann) immediately prior to their son’s birth with lots of mentions of Hitler. I didn’t find the dialogue funny, but perhaps that was the intention of filmmaker Coen (Fargo and No Country for Old Men).
Darkness pervades but doesn’t misfire in May’s “George is Dead,” a likeable but implausible romp between a spoiled Manhattan socialite who comes uninvited to the “small but comfy” apartment of her former nanny’s daughter and announces her husband met with an accident on the slopes of Aspen.
“The night my husband dies, I have no one but you,” says Doreen (Kerry Young) to Carla (Allison Roberts), and that’s when the fun begins.
Roberts’ frumpy mannerisms alone could easily steal the show from her stealth-like movements when the doorbell rings to airbrushing “salt” from saltine crackers before serving them to her spoiled guest.
Young was equally delicious to watch as a shallow, clueless woman who can’t grieve, doesn’t know who to call or how to make funeral arrangements but does cheerily remember “how her skin glowed like a light bulb” in her younger days. Both were an absolute treat to watch as well as Ludek, who also portrays Doreen’s husband Michael.
Confusion ensues in a flurry of zaniness when we get to “Honeymoon Hotel,” because who else but Allen could come up with this unfiltered comedy of misunderstanding and deceit where sex raises its ugly head with a string of Lorena Bobbitt jokes?
Set in a tacky no-tell motel, we cross the threshold of a wedding planner’s nightmare. We quickly learn the Viagra-aged groom (a lustful Tim McCormack) is actually the groom’s father, who has run off with his son’s bride (Wolff plays her as beautifully self-absorbed) at the altar. Enter the talented cast from the wedding party who come knocking at the door best friend (Morey Fazzi), spurned spouse (the aggrieved Vicki Casarett), bride’s parents (Connie Neer and Gregory Ludek), the rabbi (Don Bartalo) and the pizza delivery boy (Danny Kincaid Kurz).
Happy endings aside, the comedy is so clever that only in the final moments one realizes what a muddled character the philandering husband really is. Could Allen have borrowed the idea from his own reality?
If lightweight diversions during the holidays come in small packages, then this show is your gateway to clever shtick, frequent laughter and plots that test suspension of disbelief to the limit. Two out of three hits aren’t bad relatively speaking.
Marcia Morphy is a Rochester-area freelance writer who specializes in the arts.
If you go
If you go
What: Relatively Speaking.
When: Through Dec. 22.
Where: Jewish Community Center of Greater Rochester, 1200 Edgewood Ave., Brighton.
Cost: $26 ($18 for students).
For tickets: (585) 461-2000 or jcccenterstage.org.