by Paul Rudnick
Directed by – Kenny Green
Set Design – Kevin Brown, Joshua Hensley
Costume Design – Hope Cox
Sound Design – Danica Bergeron
Lighting Design – Scott Davis
Props Mistress – Sue Ellen Love
Stage Manager – Laurie Grissom
Erin Maher – Myra Kesselman
John Grissom – Hank Hadley
Kristin Burgess – Tibby McCullough
Brian Hoffman – Jack McCullough
Caroline Carter – Spencer McCullough
Valerie Armstrong – Marietta Claypool
Reviewed Performance: 7/15/2016
Reviewed by Carol M. Rice, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
I remember reading Regrets Only a few years back, and was surprised even then how dated Paul Rudnick’s 2006 comedy of manners was. The play ran briefly at the Manhattan Theatre Club, starring Christine Baranski and George Grizzard, and while Mr. Rudnick is known as quite the funnyman due to the success of his plays like I Hate Hamlet, Jeffrey, and The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, Regrets Only definitely pales in comparison. There are some clever, funny lines, but overall, the story just feels like its being told with a hammer.
The time of the play is listed in the program simply as “early 21st century,” but a lot has changed in this country since George W. Bush was in the White House. (While his name isn’t mentioned specifically, it’s pretty obvious that he’s the guy in charge.)
All of the action takes place in a penthouse apartment, high above Fifth Avenue, and set designers Kevin Brown and Joshua Hensley have done a spectacular job of creating a stunning look for its wealthy inhabitants. All of the furniture is stylish and uncomfortable looking, in perfect neutrals with just touches of color here and there. Scott Davis’ lighting design, complete with practical fixtures in the ceiling, adds to the smartness of the room, and Danica Bergeron’s subtle sound design doesn’t detract.
Overall, costume designer Hope Cox has done a lovely job making everyone look chic and fashionable. One exception is the final dress worn by Tibby McCullough. As the mother of the bride, she would never be in black, for one thing, and the dress just doesn’t fit the actress well at all. Her first act dress, however, is absolutely stunning, which makes the ill-fitting, too-long number in the end even more puzzling. Hank Hadley’s various tuxes were superb, however - which is good since he was a famous fashion designer. But there’s no way that someone that famous designed the wedding gown Spencer McCullough was wearing. It, too, just didn’t seem to fit right, and it definitely didn’t have the feel of high fashion. The rest of the costumes work well for their characters.
As high-fashion designer Hank Hadley, John Grissom does a fine job with a very layered role. Hank’s partner died six months ago, and he’s just getting back into the swing of getting out again with his socialite pal Tibby McCullough, portrayed by Kristin Burgess, so we get to see quite a range of emotions from him. Ms. Burgess has wonderful facial expressions and does some nice reacting to the events playing out around her.
Tibby is married to Jack, a high-powered lawyer who has the ear of “the President.” Jack is played by a surprisingly casual Brian Hoffman. I would think that such a stressful job would leave him much more tense and on edge. He does have a comfortable relationship with his wife’s best friend Hank. That said, the fact that he’s all for going to help “the President” draft a bill against gay marriage doesn’t make sense when we see how he interacts with Hank and, ultimately, Tibby. I don’t think this is the fault of the actor, but rather a flaw in the writing. It’s no wonder Hank gets so upset and takes matters into his own hands.
These three characters are the bulk of the show, with the McCullough’s daughter Spencer as an active fourth, portrayed by Caroline Carter. Ms. Carter is delightful when she’s talking about getting married and things related to the wedding, but when she goes into lawyer mode, her energy drops and she is far less believable. Again, I think this is less an acting issue than a writing issue. The “legal speak” in the first act goes on far too long, and everyone seems a bit lost by the time it’s all over with.
Erin Maher has the “show stealing” role of Myra Kesselman, the maid of a thousand characters, and she does some hilarious work popping in and out of the scenes to add some much-needed humor.
Not coming on until after intermission is Tibby’s mother, Marietta Claypool, played by Valerie Armstrong. I’ll be honest: I was a bit confused who she was when she came onto the scene, especially as dramatic as her entrance was. She was dressed in a trash bag with shoe boxes for shoes, and while this is a great sight gag, since we haven’t seen her character before, it’s more jarring than funny, because we’re trying to figure out who she is and it seems like the character was tossed in just for the sight gag since she doesn’t really do much else to further along the plot.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the performances was that no one was really BIG enough. Stereotypical New York socialites are generally larger than life, and we were instead treated to much more real people dealing with real problems, which doesn’t typically work in a satire like Regrets Only. Director Kenny Green missed a lot of opportunities for his actors to really shine.
While the script itself is dated, uneven, and overall not very funny, the message of friendship and loyalty was nice to see at the end, and the honest performances of everyone involved did help the play wrap up satisfactorily. If it hadn’t, I would have left with a very sour taste in my mouth. As it is, I’m trying to consider Regrets Only strictly as a period piece and look at it from that standpoint. The subject matter, even in this day and age, saw a couple of patrons leave during Act I, but the rest of the audience seemed to enjoy themselves thoroughly. Regrets Only is a tough piece to do, due to many of the problems with the script I mentioned above, but I do applaud Runway Theatre for taking a chance on a show that takes on some of the more difficult issues of our time.
If you get a chance to attend Runway Theatre’s opening night performances of their shows, they hold a lovely reception in the lobby afterwards, and I was fortunate enough to be there for this one. The wedding theme was in full effect, complete with both bride’s and groom’s cakes. (I had the chocolate, which was delicious.)
Runway Theatre, 215 North Dooley Street, Grapevine, TX 76051
Runs through July 31.
Actual days Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm, Sundays at 3:00pm. Tickets are $ 17-20
For information and to purchase tickets, go to www.runwaytheatre.com or call the box office at (817) 488-4842.