UNDO

Posted: August 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

The Annex Theatre starts off the new year with a new play written by local theatre artist, Holly Arsenault. “Undo” invites its audience to the divorce of a young Jewish couple, “Joe” and “Rachel,” played respectfully by Ashton Hyman and Sydney Andrews.

In this most curious of customs, the “undoing” of their marriage involves a complete and faithful replication of all the events of their wedding day, with all the same guests, flowers, congratulatory speeches, and most importantly, booze and underwear!

Throughout the course of the ceremony, we learn of the causes which led to the dissolution of their marriage, –causes which, arguably, precede the couple themselves. And we also get to meet many of the friends and family of the couple, with all of their secrets, hangups, and various idiosyncrasies.

Arsenault serves up some excellent dialogue and funny characters in a very well executed show. Thanks to Erin Kraft’s direction, the many scenes of the play flow fluidly and efficiently from one to the other with no delay (a not-so-easy task when dealing with a play with so many different scenes in different locales).  Kraft is aided in her directorial task by the simple, yet elegant set design by Catherine Cornell, who keeps the space open and flexible.

By and large, the play is rounded out with a strong cast which includes, in addition to Andrews and Hyman: Jillian Vashro, Barbara Lindsay, Marty Mukhalian, Mark Waldstein, Tom Fraser, Samantha Leeds, Nick Edwards, Amy Hill, Zoey Cane Belyea, and Ian O’Malley.

This said, there are a few issues I have with this, otherwise, good show. First, the premise itself: having very little knowledge of the Jewish faith and its customs, I spent the first part of the show wondering if this was an actual custom. (It isn’t).

But once I let this question go, I was still stuck at an impasse in trying to understand the bride’s motivations.  Without giving too much of the plot away, I just did not feel that some of the actions taken by the bride both prior to and during her marriage were very clearly explained. She made a very big personal life decision in her marriage with huge consequences, but never really offered a compelling argument to justify her action. It just seemed very illogical and unbelievable.

And finally, the second act could do with some editing. There were a few scenes that just seemed extraneous and unnecessary, — particularly the “Celebrity Game” scene between two of the guests; and the final scene, too, could have been integrated earlier into the act; it came across as an add-on in an attempt to have a plot twist.

The play does get too sentimental at times and seems as if it were written to be a made-for-TV movie on the Lifetime channel; but it does offer a multi-layered structure with good dialogue, interesting characters, and complex emotions; and it does capture the heart-wrenching sadness associated with divorce very well. It kept my interest and made me laugh, think, and feel sad simultaneously.

“Undo” runs through February 16 at the Annex Theatre on Capitol Hill. Tickets at www.annextheatre.org

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