June 20, 2008
ACT II PLAYHOUSE EXPLORES THE UPS AND DOWNS OF MARRIAGE IN MARRIED ALIVE
Theater: Act II Playhouse
Show Title: Married Alive!
Opened: June 17, 2008
Seen: June 19, 2008
Reviewer: Arnie Finkel
Submitted: June 20, 2008
Act II playhouse is a jewel in the renovation of Ambler. This 130 seat theater is the ideal spot for small cast plays and musicals. There isn’t a bad seat in the house. I’ve seen the hilarious THE BIG BANG and two very satisfying reviews based on the story songs of Harry Chapin at Act II as well as some thought provoking dramas.
Founder Steve Blumenthal, has turned 80, has handed over the controls to Bud Martin assisted by Harriet Power for the theater’s 10 anniversary. I’m sure they will continue to provide playgoers with quality productions.
MARRIED ALIVE is the current offering. The Musical with book and lyrics by Sean Grennan and music by Leah Okimoto has been added to their regular season. This two couple review follows a newly married couple and a “veteran of the scene” couple through some of the good and bad experiences of married life. It’s done with a light touch and, for the most part, is enjoyable.
The “older” couple, Ron and Diane (well played by Neal Mayer and Rosemary Loar) suffers through the dreaded conversation-if I die first what will you do?-and finally come to the realization that although they have not succeeded in achieving their life goals they made it through to each other. This is a tender and lovely lyric called We Haven’t Come So Far. I would have loved it to have a better melodic setting, but Mayer and Loar got the feeling just right. Ms Loar acted the lack of communication lyric in It Isn’t Important perfectly. The two of them had a ball with the Viagra spot called O Dar-Lin.
As the younger couple, alto Sarah Shahinian (Erin) and tenor Kevin David Thomas (Paul) were perfect in their roles. The duo sang (and beautifully) the best music in the show—the ballad about long distance marriage- Fly To Me. Ms Shahinian showed a real comic flair in the sports inspired lack of communication song, shared with Mayer and Thomas. Thomas had his moment to shine in his sentiment full solo The Lucky One. He has a super voice and uses it well. The two of them did a superior job on the fight fair song—Always Right/Always Wrong.
All four of the principals were involved in the clever credit card song-Oh We Owe Money_ wearing not much else than credit cards. The pregnancy song- Oh, Knocked UP- was a blast as a gospel song. The holidays got treated laughingly in an extended skit called-Ding Dong/Family. Everyone had a go at a character (in Shaninian’s case two characters) and it was funny if a bit over long. I don’t know where the Rap inspired-That’s Right, Suckas- fit into the framework of the show. It was well done and showed more of the talents of the cast, but it was fit in with a shoe horn.
The Show opened and closed with the speaking of wedding vows (in the beginning the newlyweds, in the end the seniors at a renewal). It was the right touch and brought the show full circle.
Director Bud Martin kept things moving and accented the exact tone to keep the show funny but not trite. Most of it was not new insights but the lyrics were clever and the gags were appropriate. I just wished for a better score.
The unit set by John Hobbie and Lim Leitner’s lighting design worked very well. Mary Folino’s costume design kept the players doing quick changes, but didn’t impede the flow. Mark Valenzuele’s sound design, run by Aaron Simon was perfect.
The accompaniment was kept to the bare minimum, with Music Director Katya Stanislavskasya ably playing the piano down stage right. Choreographer Carmela Mayo kept the dances to what could be accomplished with polish and to good effect.
Married Alive is a perfect summer entertainment with a superior cast. It will be at the Act II playhouse until July 6.