Married People: A Comedy
Reviewed by Deborah Klugman
The Zephyr Theatre
Through April 2
As its title implies, Married People: A Comedy concerns the ups and downs of two married couples. Written by Steve Shaffer and Mark Schiff, both long-time standup comics, it’s less a play than a compilation of sitcom shtick with a sizable sprinkling of borscht-belt humor. A major plot thread about the struggle of one character, a macho high school football coach, to overcome his prejudice and come to terms with his son’s gayness barely rescues the material from irrelevance.
The couples — Henry (Paul Parducci) and Cookie (Kylie Delre), and Jake (Andy Lauer) and Aviva (Michelle Bernard) — have known each other forever. While Henry and Cookie have a happy, sexy marriage, Jake and Aviva have grown apart and are no longer intimate. In one of the piece’s many improbable setups, Cookie tries to remedy the situation by setting up a therapy session, with herself as the therapist (she’s been taking an online course) for her friends.
Their heart-to- heart reveals that Aviva nurtures a grudge against Jake for not properly cutting the umbilical cord when their now grown son was born. Pressed, she admits she’s upset because neither her husband nor her son exhibits the degree of respect she craves for her Jewish family tradition, and because her son is engaged to a Gentile girl — a dilemma that parallels Henry’s refusal to embrace his son’s upcoming nuptials to his partner. Later, Henry pries into the source of Jake and Aviva’s sexual dysfunction over a beer with Jake, trotting out a host of baseball metaphors to imply that perhaps his pal is unable to perform.
All the while, he himself stubbornly resists the entreaties of the others to embrace his son Billy’s choices without regret, insisting that his reluctance is about more than his own machismo bias; as a Catholic he’s bound to condemn it as a sin as well.
Directed by Rick Shaw, Married People: A Comedy is a wincing one-dimensional offering further constrained by the limitations of the performers. The sole engaging portrayal comes from Lauer, whose timing is on point and who successfully depicts (albeit without much depth) a sensible man and an unfairly harried husband. Parducci has the most interesting role, but his Henry is a bullish stereotype with nary a genuine moment throughout. The same can be said for Bernard and Delre, although the latter does evince enough presence to suggest she might do better at sketch comedy.
The Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through April 2. 323-451-2813, http://marriedpeople.bpt.me. Running time: 95 minutes with no intermission.