In theory, the material that A Pregnant Pause attempts to provide commentary on is thought-provoking. However, this production is one which unfortunately stumbles and falls within its very first minutes and never recovers. Calvin Knie and Carla Duval play the lovers Bob and Susan, respectively. Though the duo deserve some credit for their efforts, there is hardly any chemistry to be found on stage, and thus the entire premise on which the play is founded is hardly believable. Knie turns in an absolutely enigmatic performance as Bob, one which is confusing and muddled, lacking clear intentions and any kind of subtlety. He constantly resorts to screaming and yelling, a confusing choice which is often unfounded and simply out of character.
Duval, who does her best to play against Knie, shows untapped potential given her current circumstances. The biggest problem is that Knie’s erratic performance completely destroys the illusion of the so-called “love” which is supposed to exist between the pair, and so the idea that Susan has stuck around this long with such a toxic lover is essentially a fallacy.
While the lovers are in the middle of debating their predicament, a mysterious elderly man named Fred stumbles onto their doorstep looking for his ex-wife. As it turns out, prior to Bob and Susan living in their current apartment, it also happened to be the residence of Fred and his late wife. Fred, played by Alan Charney, is a puzzling character who is apparently in denial about the death of his wife, though she has been gone for a number of years. In short, Charney’s performance is simply bewildering. As his characterization is uneven, confusing, and once again painted in broad strokes, it is unclear whether the audience is meant to perceive the old man as a dangerous lunatic, or a sympathy-garnering old man who is grieving over the loss of the love of his life.
Thrown in as an afterthought, Bob’s best friend Scott is discussed for three quarters of the play, but doesn’t make an entrance until 20 minutes before the final curtain. When Patrick Robert Harris’ Scott finally does make his way into the play, it’s as an unnecessary and unbelievable drunk who simply stumbles around the stage harassing the other characters before he is escorted out of the apartment, no better off than he was when he came in.
Whether the critique of the performances under review is an indication of an uneven script or simply poor direction, it appears to be a combination of both. Director Laurie Rae Waugh doesn’t seem to have a clear grasp on the script, which shows in the uneven pacing and static staging. For the most part the actors’ performances are inauthentic, with little to no subtlety or subtext found throughout. The characters are painted as stereotypes, and the relationships between the characters on stage are regarded with little consequence.
Overall, Meny Beriro’s latest comes with a confusing and unclear message, and it shows in its translation from page to stage. Poorly directed and—as a result—full of misguided performances, A Pregnant Pause is an inconsistent and utterly confounding production.
A Pregnant Pause (through April 24, 2016)
American Theatre of Actors, 314 West 54 Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-581-3044 or visit http://www.americantheatreofactors.com
Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission