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A CurtainUpBerkshires Review
Love and Happiness
By Elyse Sommer
I wish I could say that I liked this first play by Juilliard graduate Julian Sheppard as well. It's billed as a " no holds barred, loopy and very modern comedy about divorce from the teenage perspective". It's loopy all right and that's its problem. The attempt to blend realism with absurdist dream sequences, though brave, misfires. Sixteen-year-old Allen's (Michael L. Urie) attempts to get rid of his divorced mother Margaret's (Deann Halper) too-smooth, too-willing-to-be-fatherly boyfriend Clark (Michael Griffiths) but Mr. Sheppard has not managed to really connect Allen's realistic and dream world. Dwight (Carl Palmer), his pal with a penchant for guns but who insists that he loves people, adds another serious issue to the real-absurdist mix.
The play is nicely staged, with a colorful graffiti backdrop that reflects the mayhem stirred up by Allen's reaction to his mom recovering from being left for a "bimbo" -- not to mention his heretofore not-ready-for-sex girlfriend Tracy's (Jennifer R. Terrell) sudden decision that she, like mom, is ready for sex. Terrell also doubles as the "bimbo" who defends breaking up the marriage with "I didn't kill anything -- I was just hanging around the funeral".
Despite associate artistic director Andrew Volkoff's smartly paced direction, the over-the-top characterizations and descent from reality to a teenager's Fellini nightmare I had the sense of being at a slightly X-Rated after-school TV movie -- and wishing I had a fast forward gadget handy, especially during the last half hour.
Mr. Urie is quite endearing as the teenager struggling to deal with a life he sees in increasingly nightmarish terms. The actors do their best with the cartoony roles. But Julianne Boyd would have served Mr. Sheppard better if Barrington Stage had not hyped this as a World Premier and instead allowed his debut effort to be presented as a showcase -- without putting it in the spotlight of critical evaluation.