We hear the sound of children in the front room through baby monitors, while we watch their parents carry on with all kinds of shenanigans in John Morogiello’s comedy Play Date.
Kira Burri and Evan Crump play the hosting couple who have everything going for them – at least on the surface. He’s a successful lawyer, having married the boss’s daughter, and spinning up some lofty political ambitions. But looks are not what they seem for these two or for any of the other characters they portray. Burri starts off as Missy, a competent caring Mom who feels stuck and stagnant because she abandoned her career to stay at home while her husband barely notices her. Crump’s Blaine is boorish and bullying as he pushes everything out of the way of his next big deal.
When Burri and Crump exit to handle events in the other rooms, they enter as other parents who have issues of their own. Carol has a flower child breezy manner about her, Deb is the powder-keg perfect mom just waiting to explode, Trent is a self-absorbed television has-been actor who stakes out unhappy baby-mamas and Rowan is a Brit lit professor trying to fit in and move through grief.
While we hear the children running amuck, they have nothing on the adults who either go through emotional meltdowns, heated couplings, or have such intense child-envy that a mom of four boys who wants a little girl carries her own semen cups for potential donors. You’d think it couldn’t get wackier than that, but indeed it does.
Director Melissa B. Robinson keeps the pace zoomy without feeling frantic – that’s a lot to accomplish considering all the high-speed movement and character shifting, including the whirling interpersonal dynamics, missteps and mishaps between them all, ably played by Burri and Crump out front and a busy Johnna Leary behind the scenes. Leary doesn’t even step foot onstage but what she can do with her bits of outstretched arm is hilariously funny!
The clever designers create an entire world off-stage. We’re apprised of the happenings through the baby monitors -childish play, whining cries, sing-songs, and crashes. At least on one occasion, a parent returns with a bloodied bandage.
The weirdly wonderful text of John Morogiello was concieved by Morogiello and Lori Boyd. For the most part, the characters come across as genuine and sincere. Each gets a turn in the spotlight to share enough tidbits to add a sense of depth. Burri and Crump take on the various personas with zest and glee. Crump portrays the boorish husband, the playboy dad, and the likable Brit Rowan, adorably halting with a self-effacing Hugh Grant manner. In a touching scene he delicately relays Rowan working his way through emotions as he shares his story of losing his beloved wife in childbirth and dealing with the grief and the loss and the guilt of trying to love his young daughter.
closes May 5, 2019
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On the other hand, the flipped out character Deb who goes on a rampage as she rejects being categorized as having it all together is a stretch. Burri is a hoot to watch but the levity comes from such a sad disgruntled place and pops up so suddenly then disappears that her character doesn’t seem to be in the same play. Still, the over the top antics are handled with such effective design and care that the play and the fun win out.
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As she has done before, Elizabeth Kemmerer works wonders with neat costumes, this time created for lightning fast changes, a knit hat for Trent, a gilded purple wrap for Carol. Set designer Alison Mark features prominent primary colors for the doors and includes an innovative refrigerator, seemingly a large chest but the doors are hinged and reveal shelves of snacks, milk, goodies, another example of the caring touch so abundant in this company.
It’s just a few years old, but already Play Date dredges up some rather risqué notions about women’s lack of self-esteem and includes the overheard instance when a little girl runs around naked because boys convinced her to take off her clothes. Being able to laugh at what was back then helps push the spectrum forward to what could be, and the playful stylishness at Best Medicine does that and more.
Thankfully their space in Gaithersburg’s Lakeforest Mall has been secured for another season, so there will be more chances to catch some fun from this comedy-dedicated company.
Play Date by John Morogiello from an idea by Lori Boyd and John Morogiello. Directed by Melissa B. Robinson. Cast: Kira Burri as Missy, Carol, and Deb); Evan Crump as Blaine, Trent, Rowan); Johnna Leary (off stage voices). Set Design: Alison Mark. Light Design: John Morogiello. Sound Design: Stan Levin. Fight Choreographer: Bette Cassatt. Costume Designer: Elizabeth Kemmerer. Stage Manager: Karen Dugard. Produced by Best Medicine Rep. Review by Debbie Minter Jackson.