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A CurtainUp New Jersey Review
For Worse
It's my fault — Karen
for worse
Daniela Mastropietro and Ed Kershen (photo credit: SuzAnne Barabas)
Deborah Rennard has had, a fully engaged career in show-business, films and is probably most noteworthy for her decade-long run as "Sly" Lovegren on the hit TV series Dallas. She is bringing a sharply funny tone and a bittersweet edge to her marriage-gone-awry comedy For Worse having its world premiere at the New Jersey Repertory Company.

It is apparently no secret that her play is loosely inspired by her former marriage to high profile Hollywood producer/screenwriter/director Paul Haggis, who was visible at the premiere. Rennard has been able to look back and take considerable liberties in order to see the humor behind the humiliation and devastation of a marriage that crumbled despite her best efforts.

Like many fierce but just as often futile battles between the sexes, there is an element of perverse pleasure that comes with watching this tragi-comical play with its rounds of shouting (mostly from her) and the outrageous excuses and explanations (mostly from him), as they process the possible end of their 30-year marriage, their partnership in an art gallery, and raising three now adult daughters.

The action begins in their West Village brownstone whose walls are filled with priceless paintings. Set Designer Jessica Parks cleverly evokes this and other locations.

The play uses a formula that is more European than American in style as it recalls a genre of Italian film comedies popular in the 1960s and 1970s — often directed by Vittorio De Sica and usually starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. In them, the devoted and forgiving wife has to make a stand against her charming but philandering husband and his long-time mistress. What passes for acceptable and amusing in Italy and France has always been far less so in America. But Rennard has made it funny for Americans. Go figure.

Yes, there is a mistress to be considered and who makes an appearance with plenty to shout about. She is Lucia (Daniela Mastropietro), a leggy twenty-six year old art student who has been having an affair with Peter for three years. He has evidently promised Lucia that he will tell Karen of their affair with the hopes that he will we thrown out. But, there is also Ashley (Angie Tennant) one of Peter's also devoted and pretty employees to consider since she has assumes that she is Peter's secret lover.

What makes it all funny is how Peter gets away with his philandering being a short, rather plain-looking schlemiel (think Woody Allen) who hopes that admitting his affair is all he has to do to end the marriage and who's not above having a little sex with his wife during the course of their bruising discourse.

Karen loves Peter and is fixated on keeping him. She uses "We're going to get through this" like a mantra and it becomes funnier with each round. We know we are in farce-land when an unexpected incident becomes an excuse for a hilarious meeting of all the injured parties.

Rennard uses quick, snappy, unpretentious dialogue and the absurdity of an increasingly convoluted situation to frame the age old survival of the fittest theme. Under Evan Bergman's firm direction, Griffith gives as much as she gets as the scorned but resilient Karen. As Peter, Kershen is an unassumingly funny cross between Casanova and Casper Milquetoast. He certainly deserves the blowback he gets from the women in his life. I suspect that For Worse has a future that could conceivably be For Better.

For Worse by Deborah Rennard
Directed by Evan Bergman
Cast: Kristin Griffith (Karen Richards), Ed Kershen (Peter Richards), Daniela Mastropietro (Lucia), Angie Tennant (Ashley)
Scenic Design & Properties: Jessica Parks
Lighting Design: Jill Nagle
Sound Design: Merek Royce Press
Fight Choreographer: Brad Lemons
Costume Design: Michael Bevins
Production Stage Manager: Jennifer Tardibuono
Running Time: 1 hour 40 minutes including intermission
New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway, Long Branch, NJ 07740
(732) 229 - 3166
Tickets: $45.00
Performances: Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm and selectively at 7pm.
From 03/10/16 Opened 03/12/16 Ends 04/10/16
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 03/12/16
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