Director --- Terry Martin
Set Designer --- Jason Harris
Lighting Designer --- Bryant Yeager
Sound Designer --- Kelsey Leigh Ervi
Assistant Director --- Diana Shehan
Stage Manager --- Caron Gitelman Grant
Henry --- Bob Hess
Alice --- Wendy Welch
Reviewed Performance 2/5/2015
Reviewed by Chris Jackson, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
“I don’t think things up, I write them down.” – Michele Riml
Two actors, one set and no intermission. Within those parameters, It takes a great deal of talent to hold the audience’s attention, pull them in, involve them, and make them care about the characters and their lives unfurling before us. Perhaps no other duo in Dallas could accomplish this in quite the same way as Bob Hess and Wendy Welch do in the production of Sexy Laundry at WaterTower Theatre. They were wonderful together in Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike at Uptown Players and they are no less a team in this play. Mr. Hess and Ms. Welch play off each other and “live” together on stage in such a believable manner, the audience gives themselves over to their characterizations without reservation.
Canadian playwright Michele Riml has a history of award-winning plays, presented world-wide. Her themes of identity, relationships and consumerism, put forth with a wry slant and take on familiar situations, appeal to audiences. In an interview with John Threlfall she says, “When the characters start talking to me, that’s when I know there’s something to be written. …I love the mystery of what makes people do what they do; I find human beings wonderful and infinitely interesting. … I don’t think things up, I write them down.” During the reviewed performance, the audience laughed and listened in head-nodding recognition to the situations and dialogue, rewarding the production with a standing ovation.
The plot is nothing unique, all seen or read about before, maybe even experienced. A married couple, Alice and Henry, book a weekend at a fancy hotel to try to recapture the romance they felt twenty-five years ago. There’s a Sex for Dummies book on the nightstand, champagne and a rose, the promise of sex and, hopefully, some re-charged marital journey and “back in the day” excitement. The skill with which Ms Riml takes this familiar, sitcom plot and structures it is what makes the evening enjoyable, ably supported and even enhanced by the fine work of Mr. Hess and Ms. Welch, skillfully guided by the assured direction of Terry Martin. Every beat is clear and precise, the evening building and ebbing with the arc of the story, and the characters’ progressions clear and strong.
Alice begins their romantic weekend with suggestions from the Sex for Dummies book, like “naming your private parts,” among others, and Henry tries to comply. They then switch and he chooses some other “exercise.” Fortunately for us, if not for them, every new effort brings some form of discomfort or disaster that evokes laughter of recognition from the audience. With these two characters, every awkward encounter also reveals layers of their lives. Each of their defenses, their hang-ups, the “We need to try this!” and “This is our life! Isn’t it enough?” is used by the actors to disclose a new layer of pain, regret or discomfort while also provoking laughter.
Overlapping dialogue, shared moments, and sincere listening, along with wonderful comic timing, knowing when to throw a line away to get the maximum laugh, and how to make the serious moments work, characterize the craft these actors bring to these roles. Mr. Hess and Ms. Welch both visualize what they are describing or relating as they say it, and in this way, the audience sees and experiences it as well. The twenty-five years these characters share together are illuminated by the two actors through shared reactions, laughs, gestures, physical proximity and vocal mannerisms. Every change of pace, every emotional response, every plea, hidden in a dare, or fear hidden by bravado peels away another layer as these two skilled thespians reveal the depths of their characters. Each gets extended monologues with which to shine, and emotional truths, some shocking, are laid bare. These more truthful moments are what lift the play above the triteness of the set up.
The set by Jason Harris is minimal, yet perfectly suited to the script - a generic, up-scale hotel room in beige and brown, tasteful in every aspect, yet without uniqueness - the perfect environment for the story. Costume credit is unlisted but all aptly fit the characters and events. Lighting by Bryant Yeager is also minimal, the only variation being dimming the general lighting and bringing up a specific area for the characters when they speak of their fantasies or remember special events. Sound by Kelsey Leigh Ervi nicely comes into play during a scene where Henry switches on the television, flips through channels, and then has a very funny moment with various remotes. Pre-show and curtain call musical choices are perfectly selected.
“I’m interested in that moment where things break or people fall apart – that’s when the truth, the authenticity, gets revealed,” the playwright says. Things breaking and falling apart, the authenticity, all are represented with plenty of laughter to “make the medicine go down” in Sexy Laundry at WaterTower Theatre. This could easily be another I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change for the D-FW area. It’s funny and real, and the audience couldn’t get enough of it!
Do yourself a favor and join Henry and Alice in their fancy hotel room for an evening of laughs and wisdom, and maybe some soul-searching. You’ll leave with a spring in your step and a smile on your face, just maybe feeling a little wiser in spite of yourself!
Addison Theatre Centre
15650 Addison Road
Addison, Texas 75001
Runs through February 22nd
Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday - Saturday at 8:00 pm, and Sunday at 2:00 pm
Additional performance on Saturday, February 14th at 2:00 pm
Tickets are $22.00 Thursday and the Saturday matinee, and $27.50 Friday-Saturday and Sunday matinee.
For information and to purchase tickets, go to www.watertowertheatre.org or call at
972-450-6232. You may also purchase tickets in person at their box office (Tues-Fri, noon to 6pm)