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A CurtainUp Review
By Elyse Sommer
original review by By Elyse Sommer
review continues below
Actor and playwright Jeff Daniels' smart girl doing herself in with foolish choices is Annie Wilson' (Amy Landecker), a fundraiser for a Midwestern Public Broadcasting station. After finding her latest Mr. Wrong in bed with another woman, she rushes out of the apartment they shared. She spots a Vacancy sign for an empty apartment moves in. Accordng to the landlord (Jonathan Teague Cook) it's the nicest apartment in the building. Annie finds herself unable to resist Donald (Joseph Collins), a somewhat odd neighbor who -- miracle of miracles -- nudges her into give Elliot (Arian Moyyed), her office colleague and the wannabe Mr. Right, a chance to at least take her to lunch.
For a New Yorker, a vacancy sign and the ease with which Amy finds an apartment would be something of a miracle in itself. But the miracle Daniels has on his mind is a twist to this familiar romantic setup. The romance that's abetted by Donald is not another relationship "starting out in the dark with soft music and no clothes" and with daylight exchanges about favorite colors which forher tun out to be " a lovely shade of abyss." Sure this is all about Annier finding her true love -- but the real gold ring on this romantic merry-go-round is the discovery --or is it recovery? -- of faith.
Sound a little preachy and perhaps even ethereal? It is. In fact, though Annie seems to be a staunch non-believer, the first thing she does after she closes the door on her newly rented digs is to sink to the floor and mumble a barely audible "Hail Mary." Thus, instead of the traditional first act gun that must go off before the end, we have a hidden arsenal of ingrained faith ready to be charged up.
The downside of this sexy comic romance is that fantasy and pro- faith arguments are applied with such a heavy hand that Annie and Elliot's story seems like a remake of an old Jimmy Stewart or Robert Montgomery movie and the ever-present Donald comes off as more banal than boldly imaginative. On the up side, Daniels writes peppy and funny dialogue, and the actors deliver it with perfect timing. Amy Landecker gives an especially persuasive and committed performance. Her two fundraising monologues-cum-on-the-air crackups are hilarious, especially the one in which she threatens that Big Bird will die if the kids who tune in most often don't nudge their parents to call in with their pledges.
Director Valentina Fratti keeps a tight reign on pacing the action that shifts from Annie's apartment, to the office, to the broadcast room and a restaurant. Given the budget and venue constraints, these transitions are not easy to realize -- happily, with a strong assist from set and lighting designers Lauren Helpern and Traci Klainer, Fratti has achieved her own little miracle. Now, if the playwright could boost his plot and character building skills to the level of his knack for sharp dialogue and avoid those waltzing cliches, he'd be that much
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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>6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by our editor.
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