As someone over 40 myself, my suspicions are raised when a 22-year-old writes a play that purports to parse the mindsets and pecadilloes of middle-aged couples. But Michael Jacobs — who has since created such execrable sitcom dreck as My Two Dads and Charles in Charge — couldn’t even rent a car when his play Cheaters had a justifiably brief run on Broadway in 1978. It’s about two sets of bickering, faithless 50-somethings and a young couple (Danielle Pickard and Andrews Cope, above) who are trying to decide whether to marry. The plot probably says more about Jacobs’ issues with commitment than it does the titular marrieds.
For its current production, Contemporary Theatre of Dallas has updated the timeline to the mid-’80s — the height of miserable sitcomania and intrusive laugh-tracks —as if to justify how shrill and unpleasant all the characters are: It’s the Reagan Era, after all, you can’t expect people to behave civilly. Aside from that, all this change means is that we have to endure stylized scene changes where chambermaids re-set the hotel room while listening to Love Connection and The Facts of Life drone on the TV. It was impossible to stomach that detritus on its first run; who wants to endure it as a captive?
There are more coincidences — and non-coincidences — than even the most forgiving of audiences will likely accede to willingly. Each cheating pair is the parent to one of the young lovers; even though they have lived together for two years, none of their folks have ever met before the awkward family dinner where all secret infidelities are revealed. It’s meant to be a French farce, though it replaces nuance and wordplay with mugging and shouting: Call it La Cage aux Fail.
It might be tolerable if anyone onstage were remotely likable; alas, the women are all shrill, the men controlling and angry. And they are all clad in ugly costumes, the worst of which is Marcia Carroll saddled with wearing a flight suit that makes her look like something that would get you booted off Project Runway. Ted Wold at least has his signature snarky attitude, which allows him to spit out the contrived dialogue with an inherent sense of humor, though that’s just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
— Arnold Wayne Jones
Greenville Center for the Arts,
5601 Sears St. Through Sept. 24.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.
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