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Swimming


In another excellent production by The Road Theatre Company Steve Totland probes the flip side of happily ever after in this foray into the lives of a young married couple in Kansas, America's heartland. David (Shaun O'Hagan), a teacher, has married Denise (Shana Gagnon), one of his students who is 12 years his junior. After a decade they still seem as much in love as teen-agers, but there are hints that there are snakes in the garden of Eden.

David has resigned after a mysterious reprimand. David's best friend Mark (Chet Grissom), a surgeon, and his live-in love Alice (Heather Sher), a hospital administrator, seem like grown-ups, compared to David and Denise. The play reveals the deceptions David and Denise practice to keep their Barbie & Ken marriage playful and light-hearted.

Although the play takes its time building suspense, Totland's skill lies in the matter-of-fact depiction of the evasion of reality and its effect on relationships. Neither Denise or David seem ambitious. Despite college degrees and English majors, they appear content to go along/get along in their small Midwestern town.

Meryl Friedman directs with a sensitive awareness of these beats, never letting melodrama swamp the secrets and lies which drive the plot. Totland focuses on relationships not just these secrets. Mark has a crisis of conscience that illuminates his values but also questions his friendship for David. Ruth, mother of the high school girl David has compromised, has a vividly dramatic scene, to which Tamara Zook gives full values of tension and stress. Mark and Alice have no conflicts in a relationship in which her hospital administrator skills have obviously transferred into a household in which she wears the pants. She projects both Alice's warmth and authority.

The cast is headlined by Shaun O'Hagan as the likeable but weak teacher, David, and Shana Gagnon as his vivacious sexy wife Denise. Chet Grissom turns in a vigorous performance as Mark, complemented by Heather Sher as his wife Alice and Tamara Zook as Ruth, mother of a the compromised high school girl. Larua Fine's set design features large wooden mid-Western blocks of furniture which the actors move around to depict scenes ranging from the old swimming hole to a Thanksgiving dinner party.

SWIMMING
Playwright: Steve Totland
Director: Meryl Friedman
Cast: .Shana Gagnon (Denise), Chet Grissom (Mark), Shaun O'Hagan (David), Heather Shor (Alice), Tamara Zook (Ruth)
Set Design: Larua Fine
Lighting Design: Nick McCord
Costume Design: Mary Jane Miller
Sound Design: David B. Marling
Multi-Media Designer/Composer: Lee Osteen II
Fight Choreographer: Matthew Jaegar
Running Time: 90 minutes, no intermission
Running Dates: January 19-March 24, 2007
Where: The Road Theatre Company, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, Reservations: (866) 811-4111
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on February 17.
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©Copyright 2007, Elyse Sommer.
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