Square One Theatre Company, Stratford: When Alice tells her married son, who is having an affair with a personal trainer, that an affair is not real because the two lovers only show their “shiny side,” he listens attentively. Artistic Director Tom Holehan directs “Clever Little Lies” by Joe DiPietro at Square One. That he cast Peter Wood and Peggy Nelson in two powerful roles indicates that he wants his audiences to see the theater’s shiny side as well. And shine it does. Of course, Paulo Araujo and Josie Kulp add to the glow of this finely written comedy that features quite a few surprises.
It all starts when father Bill Sr. and son Bill are in the locker room after a tennis match. Since Bill Sr. is the winner, he is pretty proud. Young Bill claims that he couldn’t concentrate because he has a lot on his mind. Eventually, Bill Jr. — married and father to a three-month-old baby — confides to his father that he is having an affair with a woman who has the “window to his soul.” His father, sworn to secrecy, is stunned by the news and advises his son to break it off and do the right thing.
It doesn’t take long before Alice, Bill’s mom, suspects something’s up. Her husband hasn’t interrupted her complaints about the best-selling items in her book store. “Fifty Shades of Grey” is the big hit and t-shirts and mugs with classic authors that the purchasers have never read sell well.
Alice has that indisputable mother’s intuition and suspects that her husband knows something that he is not sharing with her about their son. That’s when she goes full force into getting the information out of her husband. When she’s on to it, she invites her son, daughter-in-law and baby over an evening of “this and that” as well for coffee and cheesecake.
Daughter-in-law Jane has no idea that her husband has been cheating on her and as Bill Jr., Bill Sr. and Alice try to keep her from learning, Alice blurts out a secret no one expected.
This 2013 comedy is like a Neil Simon type play except for the fact that cell phones and the f-bomb are thrown around too frequently. The profanity will definitely deter some people from attending the show.
However, those who go will delight in the performances of these four talented actors. Peter Wood as Bill Sr. is simply terrific. He’s so natural that it doesn’t seem like he’s acting. He has the perfect blend of an average guy with a touch of an ideal dad who respects strong moral values. Peggy Nelson is superb as Alice. She is so believable that I can’t imagine that anyone doesn’t personally know an Alice. Nelson plays the caring mother and convincing mother-in-law to a tee. Paulo Araujo is a bright young actor who creates a young man who hasn’t yet come to terms with the realities of husband and fatherhood. Araujo’s performance endears him to the audience in spite of the fact that his character is being unfaithful. Infidelity is a major theme in this play. Josie Kulp perfectly plays the wholesome wife and devoted young mother. This ensemble definitely shows its shiny side.
Robert (Coach) Mastroni designed the simplistic but functional scenery. A locker room and a dessert table flank the interior of a modern living room complete with a couch, throw pillows and an attractive modernist painting by Karissa Boyle. Clifford Fava’s lighting was rather nondescript and Don Henault’s sound was right on cue but it didn’t really sound like the cell phone was ringing in Bill Jr.’s pocket. Gaetana Grinder and Kerry Lambert were costume coordinators.
This 90-minute, no intermission production runs through March 17. Box office: 203-375-8778.
Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in the American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.