PHOTO CREDIT KEN HOWARD
A Breakneck Speed and Some Good Old Fun
By Lauren Yarger
If you can keep up with the speedy dialogue and quick-change sets in the Off-Broadway production of Ben Andron’s White’s Lies, you’ll probably find yourself enjoying the play, even if you can’t quite put your finger on why.
Tuc Watkins (of TV’s “Desperate Housewives”) stars as Joe White, a womanizing divorce lawyer who depends on partner, Alan (a fine, but underused Peter Scolari), to come by early every morning and interrupt the trysts held at the office so that the cad doesn’t have to breakfast with (or feign any kind of commitment to) his conquests. He’s content with his life until a sobering visit from his estranged mother (Betty Buckley), who wants to put their differences aside after being told that she doesn’t have long to live. Her one regret, she tells her son, is that he didn’t give her a grandchild.
When an old college flame, Barbara (Andrea Grano), wants the expensive firm to represent her in her divorce, White offers a trade instead: his services free in exchange for Barbara's going along with a scheme to convince Mrs. White that Barbara’s daughter, Michelle (Christy Carlson Romano), is the product of her past relationship with White yielding an instant granddaughter. Romano, known to fans of TV’s “Kim Possible,” wears the coolest wardrobe and shoes ever thanks to costume designer Michael Bevins.
A highlight of the play is Robert Andrew Kovach’s set design which transforms the office into a restaurant/bar where the owner (Jimmy Ray Bennett, who plays multiple roles) changes the establishments from American to Mexican to French, to sleazy bar, etc., almost instantaneously with the use of some rotating walls and a cracker-jack stage crew. Changing almost as quickly is Rena Strober, who plays to humorous satisfaction various women White has taken advantage of in his past.
The script is totally predictable, and you’d think some of the bits re-used multiple times throughout the play would grow old, but Director Bob Cline infuses a high-speed farce tempo on the ever-complicating piece that doesn’t let you think about it too much. In fact, some of the punch lines are delivered in such a drive-by style, that they don’t hit you until a few seconds later (there’s a great line about Buckley’s character not being able to sing).
The show also works because the cast appears to be having a lot of fun themselves. When Romano’s unbelievably high, spiked heel caused her to trip while exiting, Buckley gamely adlibbed, “she’s a little clumsy, but lovely” to the delight of the cast and audience. When Romano returned, she comically gave the chaise lounge, over which she’d tripped, a wide berth.
The characters are likable as well. You want everything to work out for them, and because the script really isn’t that complicated, of course it does. It’s an enjoyable night at the theater – if you can just keep up.
White’s Lies plays at New World Stages, 340 West 50th St., NYC. For tickets call (212) 239-6200. Group discounts are available for friends of Masterwork Productions at http://www.givenik.com/show_info.php/Masterworks/251/groups.
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