In this play, novelist and short story writer Ed Falco tries his hand at a two-hander that travels some well-worn territory: marital discord, kinky sex, and drugs to name a few.
And it’s mostly an amazing, intense experience, thanks to his often deftly written script, two spectacular performances and the masterful direction of Sean Derry.
Walter and Jan have been married for 18 years, but it’s a relationship that is fraying around the edges in the opening moments of this 100-minute, real-time excursion. Walt is a professional writer and adjunct professor, worried about his college students’ lack of respect (echoing his successful book's lack of critical acclaim). He and Jan are also fretting about their twin daughters and their likely sexual activity at the up-coming prom.
Oh, and speaking of sex, he eventually admits to having an affair with a student in his class, a 20–year-old male-to-female transsexual and bizarre taxidermist/artist named Cassie. Turned on by those encounters, he introduces Jan to a whole new sex toy. This throws Jan into some serious soul searching accompanied by copious amounts of martinis and pot, and things get uglier from there (as in, road kill nailed to a wall).
Falco’s dialogue rings true, especially in the hands of Andrew Narten and Leighann Niles DeLorenzo. Tumbling over each other verbally and physically, this duo superbly constructs a tiny little nightmare relationship that is compelling to observe. The script has the messy, unfocused and often wildly contradictory nature of heated conversations between two strung-out partners. And Derry keeps the pace tight and relentless.
Sure, the pot smoking and alcohol are convenient crutches, and Falco takes too many hits on that particular playwriting bong. But that can almost be forgiven in the context of two flawed people who are as co-dependently addicted to each other as they are to hash and hootch.
One irritating fly in this bubbling stew of betrayal and resentment is the device of having the off-stage demon in the mix being a weird transgender person. Yeah, we get it, trannies are different. But to make Cassie the highly-sexualized fulcrum of this tale, immediately justifying with most audience members Jan’s shock and revulsion, is just a tad too easy for a writer of Falco’s skill.
Other than that, this is a rip-snorting piece that rivals the intensity (if not the byzantine complexity) of Albee’s George and Martha, and other renowned on-stage wedded disasters.
Through June 28 at None Too Fragile Theater, 1835 Merriman Road, Akron (enter through Bricco Pub), 330-671-4563