10/5/2019        WHOSE WIVES ARE THEY ANYWAY?                      Earl Strand Theatre

DESPERATE CONTRIVANCES

 

(Bias Alert:  I have worked with – and like to think I’m friends with -- director Zac Phelps and many people in this cast, so I tend to look at their work through approval-tinted glasses.  You’d think!)

 

So, what’s a poor fellow to do when he witnesses a production filled to the brim with A-List Atlanta actors doing outstanding work, but in the service of a script that’s about as bad as you can get?  My plan will be to dump as much as I can on the playwright, while attempting to keep the effluvia off the hard-working friends and colleagues who, I trust, are being well-compensated for their efforts.

 

At its best, farce should be a descent into desperation begun by bad behavior and aggravated by complications of an increasingly absurd intensity.  I love farce, and there are many writers who are great at the set-up/pay-off rhythms required to make it “sing.” 

 

Michael Parker, playwright of Whose Wives Are They Anyway? is not such a writer.  The “bad behavior” that sets off the plot is not really bad, the complications are contrived, and every character is required to misinterpret every conversation they hear.  It is basically an idiot plot populated by idiot characters,

David McGachen and John Baker are executives enjoying a weekend of golf without their wives, who are off shopping in Manhattan.  To their consternation, their new boss is sharing their country club hotel, their new boss who frowns upon husbands taking golf weekends without their spouses.  Rather than just say “Our wives will be joining us tomorrow,”  they concoct an elaborate scheme to convince the new boss the wives are really present, a scheme filled with the lowest comedy possible – one dressing in drag, then literally forcing a receptionist to “play his wife,” and the attractive receptionist getting drunk and stripping to her teddy, for example  All complications then ensue from that singularly lame plan.

 

Throw in a telephone system malfunction that makes no sense whatsoever, a lot of quick change business that slows the action more than it should, a staff repairman of advanced years and medical malfunctions, a surprise visit from the real wives, and a last minute “twist” that is as far out of left field as it is out of character for the individual involved, and you can see that Mr. Parker has memorized the checklist for farce construction without having a clue as to its heart and soul.

 

To be blunt, this is a play in which, when it ended, all I can say is “Thank God that’s over.”

 

And to be equally blunt, I really don’t want to spend any more time writing about this exercise in senior-matinee pandering, which, to be honest, seems to be all it aspires to be.

 

And, even though I’ve mentioned Zac Phelps as director, and to his credit, he keeps the pace moving and makes as much of this mess as you could expect from any director, I will spare the talented cast any mention, other than to say they have all done outstanding work in plays much better than this, and even here bring their “A” game.  They’re more fun to watch than the play deserves.   

 

Whose choice was this play, anyway?

 

     -- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com   @bk_rudy    #FarceDeservesBetter )

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