"A Marriage Minuet"
Westport Country Playhouse, Westport
In this world, in which news headlines grow ever more devastating, “A Marriage Minuet” is a welcome respite. David Wiltse’s new comedy at the Playhouse is a clever, amusing escapist piece.
Wiltse (newly-named playwright-in-residence at the Playhouse and husband of Associate Executive Director Anne Keefe) provides non-stop laughter at the expense of marriage, adultery, and fragile egos. These are serious themes, but Wiltse treats them lightly, skittering across the slippery surface. This is thin stuff, material which offends no one and goes nowhere.
But what Wiltse does with this material is unusual. In a technique which he makes his own, he lets dialogue operate on several levels: characters confront each other, share comments with the audience, or articulate their private thoughts. Revelations break through the façade, which peels away like the layers of an onion. It is a technique which constantly jolts, constantly provides surprises.
Fortunately, “A Marriage Minuet” is in good hands, under the direction of Tracy Brigden, who seems to have a feel for the Wiltse material. Its many short scenes easily make the leap from place to place—from the dining room to the book store to the restaurant. The design team has the idea as well, with Jeff Cowie’s generic set, Howard Binkley’s competent lighting, Markas Henry’s appropriate costuming, and the original music and sound of Ryan Rumery and Daniel Baker.
Most importantly, this production is blessed with a stellar cast: Doug Stender as the ever-philandering husband, Douglas Rees as the inept newcomer to adultery, Deirdre Madigan as the star-struck fan, and Patricia Kalember as the realistic wife. And there’s Suli Holum, who plays all the outside girls who take their sexual encounters as they come. Madigan is particularly endearing as the little woman who longs for more in life, as is Rees as the bumbling professor. But other cast members also hold their own. The awkward sexual encounters attempted outside marriage are hilarious in their explicit details, reminding one of similar moments on the TV show, “Sex and the City.”
In all, “A Marriage Minuet” is not earth-shaking, not likely to engender serious discussion or life-changing decisions, but it is good fun in this month of brutal heat and bad headlines.
-- Irene Backalenick
Aug. 6, 2006