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A CurtainUp NJ Review
Out of the City

Of course. I get a kick walking with you. I watch other people and I think — yeah, she's my friend and I know what you see. — Carol
June Ballinger and Leslie Ayvazian (Photo: Michael Goldstein)
It starts with a kiss but ends with a. . . well, not what you might expect as two attractive middle-aged women sit on a cheap-looking sofa in the lobby of a Bed and Breakfast deep in the woods of the Poconos and discuss the esthetic and biological differences between the penis and the clitoris. Their conversation might have been more amusingly spent discussing the design and function of the unattractive indoor-outdoor setting in which they find themselves courtesy of set designer Susan DeConcini. Any digression from " the importance of the erection," would insinuate a more surreal experience than intended by playwright Leslie Ayvazian and director Murphy Davis.

Whatever Ayvazian's intentions are for Carol (played by Ms Ayvazian) and for Jill (June Ballinger), they quickly get side tracked by the actual experience of being somewhere they would never ordinarily pick to go for a weekend with husbands who apparently had little to say about it.

It seems as if Jill goes with apparent regularity around the world on dangerous treks alone; treks that have Carol wondering if her dear friend hasn't considered having a sex with a guide on such trips, her latest in the Amazon jungle. It soon becomes clear that Carol, who admits to not particularly liking to walk, questions this choice of being in this rustic B &B where they are celebrating Carol's sixtieth birthday.

Carol's husband Matt (Grant Shaud) quickly figures out how to occupy his time by walking into the woods alone and throwing stones at a log on a lake. He is pretending that it represents a masculine-defining tribal ritual. Meanwhile Jill's husband Dan (Ken Land) has his suspicions aroused when he walks into the lobby as the two women are standing in noticeably close contact.

I'm going to be a spoiler by letting you know that this is not a late-blooming Lesbian romance in the making but a rather cuddly little domestic comedy in which two couples, friends for thirty years, have been set up to re-examine their marital bonds and re-explore their friendship — which may demand another kiss but not by whom or with whom you would expect.

It is fortunate indeed that the play has four very fine actors whose personalities appear to be perfectly matched for partnership and in synch with the mostly light-hearted only occasionally heavy-handed dialogue. Ayvazian is best known for her playsNine Armenians, Make Me , and High Dive. She's also a fine actor and she allows Carol's latent frustrations and anxieties to surface with both a comical edge and a poignant urgency.

Long time artistic director at Passage Theatre Company Ballinger is terrific as the intrepid Jill but becomes emotionally derailed in one incomprehensible instance. A lot of time is given to Jill and Carol as they talk about what it takes for long-lasting relationships to be revitalized, with Carol recognizing that "women gain testosterone and men lose testosterone."

What is really essential and works beautifully is how Dan and Matt each define their masculinity and do so in front of Carol and Jill. The play trips itself up by having its characters sound like relics from the stone age who explore their sexuality as if it were 1956 and not 2016. There is, nevertheless, the invested warmth in their long-time relationship that comes through with an almost endearing naivete. Conflict becomes a moot point very quickly as does the possibility of any real crisis. These may be large flaws in a small play that only brushes the surface of Dan's question, "What's going on between the two of you. "

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Out of the City by Leslie Ayvazian
Directed by Murphy Davis

Cast: Leslie Ayvazian (Carol), June Ballinger (Jill), Ken Land (Dan), Grant Shaud (Matt)
Scenic Design: Susan DeConcini
Costume Design: Robin I. Shane
Sound Design: Michael “Skippi” Antoniewicz
Lighting Design: Paul Kilsdonk
Abbey Bay: Production Stage Manager
Running Time: 1 hour 15 minutes no intermission
Passage Theatre Company at the Mill Hill Playhouse, 205 E. Front Street, Trenton,
Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 pm and Saturday and Sunday at 3 pm.
From 10/27/16 Opened 10/29/16 Ends 11/13/16
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 10/29/16 NJ Theaters
NJ Theatre Alliance
Discount Tix Information

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