Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Clever Little Lies @ The Westside Theater (Upstairs)

Congratulations to the cast and crew of Clever Little Lies which opened October 12th at the Westside Theatre, and will be running through January 3rd. Both witty and poignant, two-time Tony Award winner, Joe DiPietro, succeeds in delivering a script, using the two-couple ensemble, reminiscent of 60’s sitcoms that audience members find uproariously entertaining. I do wonder, however, whether anyone noticed that the semi-misogynistic teasing of female frailties common to those beloved shows was replaced by the celebration of self-empowered women at the expense of their pusillanimous husbands.
Charming Marlo Thomas, wife of Phil Donahue and best known as creator and star of TV show That Girl, was spot-on as the strategizing and manipulative mother archetype who, despite her claim that all her meddling is for family, is completely self-serving. Did her character go to sleep that fateful night certain that her ends justified the means? I hope not. Throwing her relationship to doting husband, Bill Sr, played by Greg Mullavey, under the bus as penance for her own infidelity was a heart-breaking thing to watch. I felt so bad for him that I nearly jumped on stage to join in a sympathetic nightcap. Obviously, I was pulled in by this show and the persuasive talents!

Director, David Saint was so clever to use, in the opening scene, a heated discussion between Bill Sr and son Billy, played by George Merrick, Honeymoon in Las Vegas (Broadway), so that we audience members could watch the emasculating devolution of this man, who served as a rock for his spoiled wife and entitled son, for whom enough was never enough. Bill Sr is critical of the American milieu which he claims is embedded by design in the Declaration of Independence: “We’ve been promised happiness, so we’re chasing it all the time.” Not quite the perspective we hear promulgated by the declarants of “The American Dream”.
Darling, daughter-in-law Jane, played by Kate Wetherhead, who originated the role in 2013, is so successfully, superficially, supine we barely notice that she has yanked her husband here, then there with her demands and incessant whining about her ever-changing wants and needs. Her character alas redeems herself when she admits that she’s not been showing her “shiny side” and thankfully takes some responsibility in the marriage hiccup that has caused this showdown.
These were such difficult and challenging topics for what is written and performed as a comedy. The four actors were fantastic together and the comedic timing was brilliant. This could have easily been billed as a tragedy, which it is, and they would have knocked that out of the park as well. I was suitably entertained during the show and even days later, I am still reflecting on the nuance of the stories that are unfortunately common to us all, as we, as they, fumble along, screwing up constantly even while trying to do the right thing for ourselves and our loved ones.

Review By: Michele Seven
Photos By: Sara Krulwich

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