Saturday, October 2, 2010

I LOVE MY WIFE • New Line Theatre

Ah, the 70's.  Reminds me of my beloved chocolate brown corduroy blazer and my parents' misgivings about my insistence that I be allowed to stay up to watch "Maude".  It was also a time when many in the country turned their attention to getting their groove on -- threesomes, foursomes, who cares?  It was the swingin' 70's!  But can the friendship of 2 couples survive the influences of the sexual revolution?  That's what we get to find out in New Line Theatre's 20th season opener, I LOVE MY WIFE.

This was opening night and a few of the for real reviewers, like the people who really know their shit were there.  I got chills.  Okay not really, but you could feel everyone's anticipation to see this show, which hadn't been staged in St. Louis for many years, and that was cool.  I also must say, there were a couple of chicks behind me who apparently were not aware of the "Excuse me, the show has started.  STFU" rule.  Luckily for me, they sat somewhere else for the second act.  At one point early on when one of the couples was getting into bed, one of the girls said, "Oh my God.  Are they gonna get in bed together?"  …  Uh, really?  Did you enjoy your season at the Muny?  But I digress…

Emily Berry (Cleo), Jeffrey M. Wright (Wally),
Sarah Armstrong (Monica), and Todd Schaefer (Alvin),
in New Line Theatre's I LOVE MY WIFE.
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
The show follows four good friends, Alvin (Todd Schaefer), his wife Cleo (Emily Berry), Wally (Jeffrey M. Wright ), and his wife Monica (Sarah Armstrong), as they grope their way through the tail end of the 1970's.  Alvin, a slightly uptight furniture mover, is afraid that the sexual liberation bus may have already left the station, so he takes some advice from his buddy Wally, a hip, sleazy but endearing public relations exec., and considers trying a threesome on for size.  He tries to talk his wife into broadening their sexual horizons by inviting Wally's wife Monica into the bedroom.  Although they have all been friends since high school, Alvin has discovered that Monica is all grown up now -- and hot.  But Cleo is more than a little attracted to Wally, and even though she's apprehensive at first, she decides to take the counterculture bull by the horns in a great tune, "Love Revolution".  So on Christmas Eve, Alvin and Cleo agree that they will invite the person who walks into the door first into the sack, but when their pals Wally and Monica walk in together, things really get interesting.  Interesting and hilarious.  Now, it's not as though there's a detailed plot for this show, but under Scott Miller and Alison Helmer's direction, watching it all unfold and seeing how these individuals respond to the opportunity is an entertaining ride, well worth the price of admission.  This show may be set in the 70's, but the themes are still relevant.

Joel Hackbarth (Stanley), Troy Turnipseed (Quentin),
and Zachary Allen Farmer (Harvey),
in New Line Theatre's I LOVE MY WIFE.
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
You can't help but like these characters.  You want to see how things turn out for them in the end.  The performances were strong across the board.  Emily Berry has a particularly funny scene when they all try to loosen up by smoking a little hash.  Keep your eye on Joel Hackbarth in the number that follows this scene, "Everybody Today is Turnin' On" for some laughs.  Hackbarth along with Zachary Allen Farmer and Troy Turnipseed provide a charming greek chorus, commenting on the activities of their friends.  The sets are clever (having characters who are furniture movers change the sets around… cool), and the New Line band handled the Cy Coleman score nicely.

In short, go see it.


Book/lyrics by Michael Stewart 
Music by Cy Coleman
Directed by Scott Miller and Alison Helmer 
Washington University South Campus Theatre, 6501 Clayton Road
through October 23 | tickets: $10 - $20
Performances Thursday to Saturday at 8pm

Sarah Armstrong (Monica), Emily Berry (Cleo), Todd Schaefer (Alvin), Jeffrey M. Wright (Wally), Zachary Allen Farmer (Harvey), Troy Turnipseed (Quentin) and Joel Hackbarth (Stanley). 

Costumes by Thom Crain; scenic design by Todd Schaefer; lighting by Kenneth Zinkl.

The New Line Band:
Piano/conductor, Justin Smolik; keyboard, Sue Goldford; bass, Dave Hall; guitar/banjo, Michael Mason; percussion, Clancy Newell.

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