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A CurtainUp Review


Another title that would work well for Richard Dresser's marital comedy would be Divorce On the Rocks. On the other hand that might give away too much of the meager serving of surprise dished up during the bi-coastal confrontations during which the four talented leads spill out their assorted emotional ticks, recriminations, anxieties and hopes.

While there may be few surprises in this start-at-the-end tale of people whose clocks are ticking desperately with the need to get their lives in order before the tick slows down, Gun-Shy nevertheless provides enough satisfactions to make for an enjoyable evening. It fairly crackles with dialogue to set off the audience laugh meter. The main players bring on-the-button timing to their roles -- Maryanne Urbano splendidly reprising Evie from the play's earlier production at the Actors Theater of Louisville and the always excellent Jeffrey De Munn as her former spouse Duncan; Cristopher Innvar, (funny but a tad to much the shlemiel to be quite convincing as a Bigbucks, take no prisoners coffee seller), and Jessalyn Gilsig as Carter and Caitlin, their current meaningful others. Lee Sellars, also a carryover from Louisville, plays assorted involved by-standers. Under Gloria Muzio's direction, the plot moves briskly between the bi-coastal settings, (Pacific northwest, D.C. and New England), which are beautifully staged with a Museum of Modern art cool look and great efficiency by Allen Meyer.

To set the laugh meter in motion, the lights go up on a table for two set for a romantic dinner. But one look at the diners, Evie arms-crossed belligerently and Carter looking every inch the out-to-lunch lover, and we know there's trouble in this romance on the rebound. "You don't know what pain is!" Evie declares ominously. Not a particularly funny line on the page, but an invitation to hilarity as played out by Urbano and Innvar. That dinner also sets the scene for the disasters that punctuate the lives of these walking wounded from the relationship wars trying to cope with a tough and dangerous world. As Evie remains fixated on her needs, Carter watches horrified as his car is destroyed by a bunch of hoods. Dinner over, Evie continues her efforts to manipulate the emotionally weak but business savvy Carter into a relationship that will enable her to relive the happier new parent stage of her first marriage. The scene then shifts to Duncan and the young blonde bimbo who found him him more attractive as a married lover than the available and ready-to-commit man he has become. Eventually and inevitably there's a table with four chairs so that the one-on-one relationships can multiply into an expanding arithmetic equation: Evie interacting with Caitlin, Evie with Duncan, Caitlin with Carter, Duncan with Carter--plus all of them wanting to interact with the absent thirteen-year-old son whose birthday celebration has brought them together.

Stir into this mix Caitlin's anorexia, the disaster prone Carter's unrelenting competitiveness, the attitudinal differences between twenty and forty-somethings, medically induced fertility and a blizzard, (do people ever get together in a New England house without a blizzard?) and it's clear that Mr. Dresser has stuffed his comedy with enough me too laughter flashpoints to send audiences out of the theater with a sense that a good time was had by all.

Not to downgrade the achievements of this cast, Gun-Shy would probably play better with a big-name cast on the big screen (how about Kevin Kline and Judy Davis as as Duncan and Evie?). In the tough theatrical market for plays, a comedy like this is likely to make more of a name for itself in small regional theaters than in New York.

By Richard Dresser.
Directed by Gloria Muzio
With DeMunn, Jessalyn Gilsig, Christopher Innvar, Lee Sellars and Maryann Urbano
Sets: Allen Moyer
Costumes: Jess Goldstein
Lighting: Peter Kaczorowski
Sound: Martin Desjardines
Wilder Theater/Playwrights Horizon, 416 W. 42nd St. (212/279-4200 )
1/13/98-2/22/98 (opening 2/01)
Reviewed 2/04/98 by Elyse Sommer

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