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A CurtainUp NJ Review
Three couples who have remained friends over the years apparently gather together on special occasions to reestablish their connection and affection for each other. Nothing wrong with that. But on this occasion, it is to celebrate the men having reached a significant decade in their lives. The place for the reunion is Fern Hill, a farm that is the aptly named home of Sunny (Jill Eikenberry) and Jer (David Rasche) . . .no pun intended.
Jer is a college professor and we assume by appearances that Sunny, also a professor, is not planting corn or presumably good at riding a tractor. Their idea is to propose that their home in upper New York State might be perfect for their communal living together in their fast encroaching dotage.
How does this grab sixty year-old rocker Billy (Tom McGowen) and his wife Michiko (Jodi Long) and the eighty year-old artist Vincent (John Glover) and his wife Darla (Dee Hoty)? The wives are all notably younger than their husbands. The suggestion wouldn't be such a bad idea if something isn't revealed that will change the dynamic, certainly the prospects, of Sonny's bright idea. Oh, dear.
We do learn that these men and women enjoy each other's company and Billy and Jer like to cook, especially Billy, whose precisely disclosed recipe for clam sauce might just be the dramatic highlight of Act I.
Those attending are advised to take notes. Food talk is always interesting even if the chatter that surrounds it isn't. You would be well advised, however, to not let your mind drift from the inconsequential sharing of information lest you miss the lightning bolt that plops into their comfort zone.
Far be it from me to disclose the crisis that must be addressed initially in secret meetings in another part of the farm, so I will share what is apparent and public knowledge.
Machiko must have been a groupie and she still loves her man even though he spends a lot of time on the road...and doesn't profess to being faithful or as he calls it "fan appreciation." Darla is an artist although not on the same level or renown as Vincent who at first hobbles around pre hip and then post hip replacement. She's content to leave Vincent in Sunny's care as she and Michiko skedaddle off to a gallery in Vienna for a showing of her work.
The question is less what this play is about than what are we to make of characters who do not dramatically resonate with more than perfunctory mid-life disclosures. Observing these six people coming to terms with the inevitable loss of innocence and their reluctance to embrace experience (if that is indeed the theme) needs to be addressed with more wit than it is here.
This terrific cast does what you would expect from them. Under the direction of Nadia Tass they rise above the torpor of the text. The comfy interior of the farm setting designed by Jessica Parks, the lighting by Jill Nagle, and costumes by Patricia Doherty are up to the usual high standards of the New Jersey Rep.
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Fern Hill by Michael Tucker
Directed by Nadia Tass
Cast: Jill Eikenberry (Sunny), John Glover (Vincent), Dee Hoty (Darla), Jodi Long (Michiko), Tom McGowan (Billy), David Rasche (Jer)
Scenic Design: Jessica Parks
Costume Design: Patricia E. Doherty
Lighting Design: Jill Nagle
Sound Design: Merek Royce Press
Production Stage Manager: Rose Riccardi
Running Time: 2 hours including intermission
New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway, Long Branch, N.J.
732 - 229 - 3166
From 08/09/18 Opened 08/11/18 Ends 09/09/18
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 08/12/18
NJ Theatre Alliance
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