It is 4:12 AM and Janet, a psychologist, gets on an empty car on the San Francisco BART from the Airport to the final stop, Bay Point. She wants to be left alone with her Saturday crossword puzzle. She has just left her son Brian at the airport on his way to becoming a Marine against her wishes and she is in a vulnerable state. Just before doors close, Josh, an advertising executive unemployed for the last 18 months who is temping at the airport on Christian holidays, makes it into the car. Carrying the same newspaper, he is also a crossword puzzle aficionado, albeit an amateur while Janet turns out to be a pro.
Josh uses Editor Will Shortz’ crossword puzzle to begin a conversation with Janet, after all it is 90 minutes to their stop and she is an attractive woman in his age group. It turns out that he has an interview on Tuesday and can use some advice to be certain that he gets the job, while she regrets that she reminded her son that he always fails at everything. In the course of the ride, these two opposites, he Jewish, she Catholic, she an uptight perfectionist who always plays by the rules, he an extrovert who is a loose cannon, bond over similar interests and contrasting problems. They are both wearing wedding rings but today that doesn’t always mean what it used to mean. She offers to teach him how to finish the puzzle which will improve his memory and sharpness. By the end of the ride, he has taught her how to loosen up.
The well-made script has been crafted by Mayer who has been producer or writer on such successful television shows as The Facts of Life, The Bob Newhart Show, Tabitha and Bewitched and his Josh and Janet are three-dimensional enough to run a whole season on a sit-com. Gilman who is West Coast-based is charming as the talkative Josh who is both needy and vulnerable. McArdle who is best known for musicals proves that she has a light touch with a quip and a quick comeback. They make entertaining adversaries as little by little they lower their guard and reveal more about their true selves. Under Evelyn Rudie’s smooth direction, McArdle and Gilman are delightful company. The evocative single setting is by Scott Heineman.
Two opposites attract in Jerry Mayer’s 2 Across and Andrea McArdle and Kip Gilman keep the interplay light and entertaining. You can also learn a few life lessons along the way. After the final curtain, there is also a musical surprise which like the play is delightfully refreshing.
2 Across (through February 7, 2016)
St. Luke’s Theater, 308 W. 46th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-239-6200 or visit http://www.telecharge.com
Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission