Michael is a file clerk who lives with his mother in the apartment he grew up in. Unexpectedly, Erin, who is a corporate executive, has recently called him up to have a get together. They haven’t seen each other since high school, 30 years earlier. Michael has always been in love with her, though nothing physical ever happened between them. Conveniently his mother is away in Boca Raton, Florida, so they’re able to meet at his place.
“Open tunnel for the choo choo train,” is how Leonard, Michael’s best and perhaps only friend, describes sex. It’s just one of many crude observations this wacky Russian makes during the play’s expositional opening scene between him and Michael.
Erin arrives later on, and she and Michael catch up on their lives. Her marriage is unhappy and she plays around during her frequent work travel. He never fulfilled his youthful ambitions to be a film director. Things get unpleasant as their raw emotions are unleashed. The unsettling tone is intensified as Leonard stops by and harshly interacts with the couple.
Amidst Mr. Maierson’s barrage of mechanical set-ups and punch lines, there are a few amusing jokes and insightful observations. Reprise is in the tradition of substantive romantic comedies such as several of the works of Neil Simon and Bernard Slade’s Same Time, Next Year. However, it lacks the polish and depth of those perennials, and is also mired in bathos.
Maierson does his play no favors by directing it as well. The physical staging is basic people in living room actions. His work with the actors is odd and problematic. Pinteresque pauses abound, which is disorienting in the comedic portions. The cast is relentlessly emphatic in their vocal and physical delivery. That may be appropriate for the brusque Russian, but for the wistful middle-aged couple it’s irritating and artificial.
As Michael, the personable Ken Forman does his best with such an overwrought role. Mr. Forman attempts to meld the character’s wry manner and depressed outbursts with his admirable performance.
The sleek and charming Tara Westwood manages some fine moments as Erin during her scenes with the two men.
Sean Patrick Folster can’t be blamed for going overboard with his Russian accent and menacing histrionics. Mr. Folster is like an acidic Kramer from Seinfeld.
Josh Iacovelli’s living room set is so perfect and visually inspired, it looks like a situation comedy could be filmed on it. Daisy Long’s lighting design is proficiently realistic. The personalities of the characters are successfully realized by Dustin Cross’ authentic costume design, particularly Leonard’s flamboyant outfit.
The show’s website and program states its running time as approximately one hour long, when at the performance under review it was actually 50 minutes long. That’s okay as Reprise is a case where less is not more, but where less is better. This does add confusion though, as at the end as it’s not clear that it’s actually over. The actors come out for their bows and we realize that it is.
Reprise might make for passable entertainment on television, but as a work for the theater it’s decidedly deficient.
Reprise (through June 11, 2017)
Paradise Factory Theater, 64 East 4th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit http://www.repriseplay.com
Running time: 50 minutes with no intermission