June 18, 2008
Say "I Do" to Married Alive! at Act II Playhouse!
Theater: Act II Playhouse
Show Title: Married Alive!
Opened: June 17, 2008
Seen: June 14, 2008
Reviewer: Amy Lewis
Submitted: June 18, 2008
Married life is an enigma; people struggle to find a soul mate with whom to spend the rest of their lives and yet complain once they grasp what the concept of “til death do us part” actually means. Married Alive! at Act II Playhouse explores this dichotomy with light-hearted humor and touching sensitivity that leaves one feeling more hopeful than terrified of the age-old institution.
The story centers around two married couples - one newlyweds, the other seasoned veterans – to explore the highs and lows that occur throughout the journey that is matrimony. The younger couple deals with the fresh excitement and early teething troubles married life presents (career/life balance, pregnancy), while the more established couple works through the difficulties presented in later life (impotency, ageism). As both pairs examine their relationships independently of and in lieu of the other, they discover that married life is a rollercoaster that never lets up in its momentum.
Act II joyfully brings Married Alive! to life with a talented cast and top-notch production values. The show is a delight from beginning to end that places a perfect bookend on the theatre’s incredibly successful 2007-2008 season. In fact, this show is actually an extension to the regular season - a wonderful bonus to Act II devotees.
From the very first number, the cast of Married Alive! proves they are an extremely talented bunch. Sarah Shahinian as Erin captures the hope and anxiety that accompanies a new bride without ever becoming unlikable or shrill. Her comic timing and delivery ensures she hits every mark dead on, and her onstage persona is very disarming. Her counterpart, Kevin David Thomas, is equally as affecting, personifying the modern day groom and his dilemmas perfectly. As Paul, he grapples with questions of the male role in an age of female empowerment and fears of inadequacy beautifully, particularly in his enchanting number, “The Lucky One.”
As the more experienced married couple, Ron and Diane, Neal Mayer and Rosemary Loar are perfectly cast. Mayer is an affable leading man, both irreverent and sensitive at once. He brings a comic sparkle and shrewd shine to his scenes, keeping the action light-hearted and fun. Loar acts as an excellent foil for him, instilling sexuality and intelligence into her character. Her lovely rendition of "It Isn’t Important" gives the audience a poignant pause to consider the evolving nature of human affection.
The cast is ably directed by Bud Martin, who keeps Married Alive! moving at a snappy and energetic pace. Despite the broad comedy of the piece, Martin steers the show away from caricature at crucial moments to ensure they are ultimately relatable to his audience. Married Alive! is infused with a knowing silliness that keeps it light and active even throughout its more serious moments.
In short, Married Alive! is a wonderful piece for anyone who is, has been or is even thinking about getting married. More upbeat and positive than Sondheim’s Company, Married Alive! strives to examine marriage, warts and all, to find out what keeps the world coming back for more. With humor and heart by the bucket load, Married Alive! at Act II Playhouse is, well, engaging!