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A CurtainUp New Jersey Review
Where the Sun Never Sets

I've been to workshops, Bob. They taught me how mental illness runs like salmon in families.— Monahan, a police lieutenant
I want a lawyer—Bob
Your wife was a lawyer and yet you killed her. Now you think you can waltz in here and demand another? You have to earn that kind of trust.— Monahan

Bob (Jim Ligon) and Annie (Andrea Bianchi) (Photo: Carol Rosegg )
Bob Clyman's laugh-out-loud socio-political farce Where the Sun Never Sets may owe some of its inspired lunacy to such classic horror flicks as The Stepford Wives, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Village of the Damned. But even as it unabashedly reflects the nightmarish elements in those films about possession of the soul, diabolical brain-washing, and subliminal indoctrination, it stands apart as one of the wackiest and funniest stage comedies I've seen in a long time. Interestingly, the only two playwrights I can think of with a similarly skewed perception of the world are David Lindsay-Abaire (Fuddy Meers) and David Ives, best known for his evening of one acts, All in the Timing. Clyman, whose plays have been performed Off-Broadway and at regional theaters, may not have as high a profile as Lindsay-Abaire or Ives, but his standing may be changed with this riotously propelled story.

Clyman takes us along on one "average" guy's journey to find his wife, who has disappeared after a shopping trip to the mall. Bob (Jim Ligon) and Annie (Andrea Bianchi) have made the decision to move from the city to the suburbs with their two children (unseen). He's a philosophy professor and she is a lawyer, with the kind of grand-standing liberal views that prompt her to impromptu speechifying. However, Bob senses a notable change in Annie following a visit to their home from a craftily insinuating Monsignor Calibar from the Unity Church (Daniel Robert Sullivan). Calibar is apparently making the rounds to welcome newcomers to the neighborhood. There is something peculiar about this guy who sees right through them (literally) and is noticeably and rather brazenly forward with Annie.

Bob explains to Calibar that they are not churchgoers ("I'd rather have one friend with common sense that ten who are pious") to which Calibar responds with polite condescension, "I think I heard some Rousseau in there. . .and a little Voltaire yanked out of context. I'll bet you drive a Suburu." As indicated by a ringing of chimes, Annie is apparently beguiled by Calibar after a few compliments and she begins making prolonged trips to the mall. One day she does not return.

Over time, Bob has come to realize that Annie's political and social views have become progressively and aggressively conservative ("Give me one good reason why millions of people don't have enough to eat. They're lazy."). What he finds more frightening is that she wanted to be called "Binky."

Bianchi puts plenty of vim and vigor into her tirades while Ligon, a chunky friendly-faced actor, moves from bemusement to alarm with alacrity and comedic skill. The plot thickens even as its melts away any fears of it becoming a diatribe when Bob pays a visit to neighboring friends Howard (Joel Leffert) and Beth (Jane Keitel) —only to realize that they are not who they seem to be. From this point this becomes basically Ligon's show as his search for Annie leads him to a police station from hell where he is questioned in turn by three officers respectively: Halihan (Brendan Patrick Burke), Monahan (Joel Leffert) and Hoolihan (Michael Irvin Pollard), each as nutty as any character ever played by The Three Stooges. Despite the basic silliness of the plot, it is all in the timing and the barrage of funny lines that makes this comedy breeze along. (For example, Monihan's "Halihan, bring in Freud's Interpretation of Dreams to which Halihan responds Which edition, lieutenant?"),

Bob's suspicions that there is a diabolical plot afoot to control the minds of the community grows as he attempts to find and rescue Annie, who it turns out has been abducted to Calibar's mountain retreat as his concubine. Bob is helped by a hitchhiker (also played by Sullivan) in camouflage gear. The dialogue comes at us so fast that I'm sure many good lines are lost. There are almost too many for the play's own good. The actors, all of whom are exhibiting themselves at their uninhibited best, are well served by John Pietrowski's unrestrained direction.

No farce can work without great sound effects and for that we acknowledge the work of Jeff Knapp. Designer Richard Turick's three level minimalist setting displays only a few boxes that fulfill a few basic needs, but anything more would have been like gilding the lily. Bettina Bierly's costumes reflect the surrealism of the play under the glow of Richard Currie's lighting. With all the drivel that has been seen Off-Broadway recently, this is one entertainment that delivers its goods with style and wit.

There is an irony in the fact that this world premiere was given a reading at Playwrights Theater 12 years ago and it has taken this long for it to see the light of day. It was worth the wait.

Where the Sun Never Sets
By Bob Clyman
Directed by John Pietrowski
Cast: Andrea Bianchi, Brendan Patrick Burke, Jane Keitel, Joel Leffert, Jim Ligon, Michael Irvin Pollard, Daniel Robert Sullivan.
Set Design: Richard Turick
Costume Design: Bettina Bierly
Lighting Design: Richard Currie
Sound Design: Jeff Knapp
Running Time: 2 hours including one intermission
Playwrights Theatre, 33 Green Village Road, P.O. Box 1295
February 1 — 18, 2007
Performances: Thursday February 8 at 5:30 PM and February 15 at 3 PM and 8 PM. Fridays at 8 PM; Saturdays at 8 PM; Sundays at 3 PM.
Ticket Prices: $25 - $, $22.50 - $24.50 for seniors, $15 for students.
Reservations: Box Office (973) 514- 1787, ext. 30 or online at
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance February 2, 2007
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