In the Mood by Kathleen Clark. Directed by Marc Bruni.
Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman
"I think it went beyond "it isnít my business."
Comedy rears its sitcom best on the Berkshire Theatre Festivalís FitzPatrick Main Stage for the fir st part of August. Kathleen Clarkís lightweight romantic farcical comedy, "In the Mood" with a delicious cast of coy players is lighting up the stage for a while and we should all be very grateful. The seventy-five minute one act, about half the length of a real play, could probably be pared down even further and made even funnier by taking out a subplot that really adds very little other than two characters who arenít really needed to tell the story in this play.
Right up front weíre told that Sally Elliot wonít be attending a party given by Perri Rubin, even though she was expected to be the body at the piano for the cocktail surprise bash Perri is throwing for her husband Derekís birthday. When she shows up about midway into the evening it is both a surprise and a curiosity for her brother Nick is already there playing 1940's songs. Nick has a thing for Perri, a thing they once exploited before her marriage to Derek, Derek's fourth marriage it seems. The biggest surprise comes when Derek and a small blonde woman suddenly appear. Misunderstandings begin to mask the classic comedy thrall of French farce, except that the six doors and the staircase entrance never function in the physical manner of a farce. They just exist.
Clark is lucky to have director Marc Bruni and a very talented company to shore up the basic simplicity of her play. Her lines are mostly amusing. Their delivery in a dry and droll manner gets the laughs. Bruniís timing is responsible for the success of this piece and when the cast members move through laughs or ignore the audienceís reaction the play is really doing its job delivering a human and humorous reality.
Perri is played beautifully by Erin Dilly, Never better than in the final moments of the play when she spurns her husbandís next wife or when she discovers her old love may be her best love, Dilly has a sensitivity that shines in her face. Her character tries to hide this facet but not even the biggest setting can obscure this diamondís superb cut.
Damian Young played her husband. He has a Roger Rees quality that screams untrustworthy from his initial appearance. That he maintains this throughout is a tribute to his abilities in such a role. Jennifer Cody is his short friend Carolyn and she plays this part with the strength of a future Medea of comedy.
The superfluous, but genuinely endearing, couple are played by Johanna Day as Sally and Arnie Burton as Edward Norton (not the film star, but an actor nevertheless) [SINCE THIS REVIEW WAS PUBLISHED, THE CHARACTER'S NAME HAS BEEN CORRECTED TO EDWARD HORTON, STILL NOT THE FILM STAR EDWARD EVERETT HORTON]. Edward is an actor playing a contractor and as Burton plays him he is a much better actor than Perri, who has hired him, might have a right to expect. Day has a strong, masculine charm about her and she makes Sally into a memorable woman. She does forthright behavior with charm and charm with a bullishness that is genuinely amusing.
Nick, Sallyís brother and Perriís ex, is a stalwart sort of fellow, although quirky and a bit standoffish with Perri. Their attraction is evident and as played by Stephen R. Buntrock Nick is attractively burly and almost brutally real. His presence grounds the play in reality and he makes the comedy softer as a result. With a slightly stronger ending, his vocalizing might have an even deeper resonance in terms of romance.
Thereís a beautiful set designed by Lee Savage, lush costumes from Laurie Churba Kohn and reasonable lighting by David Lander. Scot Killianís sound design includes an off-stage scene with John McMartin and Jessica Walter.
A light, frothy confection with a whipped center and a cherry on top, "In the Mood" is one of those plays you will see, enjoy and forget before your next night out. It is clever, but caught in its own familiar traps. It is funny, but the lines arenít ones youíll be quoting to friends for their amusement. You wonít covet the clothes, or the charactersí friend. You will only laugh and pass an hour or so in a comedy situation that smacks of "thatís not going to happen to me." But if fore-warned is fore-armed, see this play and then examine the world close to you for comparisons; hopefully there wonít be any.
Erin Dilly and Damian Young; photo: Christy Wright
Arnie Burton, Erin Dilly and Johanna day; photo: Christy Wright
Stephen R. Buntrock; photo: Christy Wright
In the Mood plays at the Berkshire Theatre Festival on Routes 7 and 102 in Stockbridge, MA through August 13. For information and tickets call the box office at 413-298-5576.