Monday, October 26, 2015

Off-Broadway Review Clever Little Lies with Marlo Thomas and Greg Mullavey

Kate Wetherhead, George Merrick and Marlo Thomas. Photo: Matthew Murphy
That Girl Grew Up and is a Meddling Mother Dealing with Clever Little Lies
By Lauren Yarger
It’s been a while, but our favorite “That Girl” actress is back on the boards, just as perky and young-looking as ever (the latter thanks to some plastic surgery) in a delightful new play by one of our favorite and perky playwrights, Joe DiPietro (Memphis).

Marlo Thomas stars as Alice, a mother who knows something isn’t quite right with her son and his wife and when she invites them over to try to get to the bottom of a bunch of Clever Little Lies, family secrets are unleashed in unexpected ways.

Alice is concerned about Billy (George Merrick) and his wife, Jane (Kate Weatherhead), after discerning that something is wrong when her husband, Bill (Greg Mullavey), lets it slip that his son has confessed some confidential matters. Alice and Bill have been married too long for him to hide secrets from her, but when he refuses to divulge details – that Bill is having an affair with a young trainer at his gym – Alice decides to have the kids and their new baby over for a little cheese cake – and interrogation.

Jane has been distracted by being a new mom, but she knows something isn’t quite right. Billy seems angry all the time. What he’s really doing, is coming up with “clever little lies” all the time to get away with deceiving his spouse. When Alice decides to give the kids some much needed advice and honesty, what she shares might save their marriage, but end hers.

DiPietro, the Tony-Award-winner for Memphis who also brought us the fun books for Nice Work if You Can Get It and The Toxic Avenger, among other shows, creates interesting characters here, who have a lot of funny lines. It has been a while since I have laughed all the way through a show. 
Somewhere in between we also discover some serious themes about relationships, marriage and the importance of working at them. It’s funny, tender and satisfying.

David Saint deftly directs the action on Yoshi Tanokura’s set, which takes us from the guys’ tennis club, to a car (very nicely executed) and the parents’ living room. Scene changes are made smooth with original music composed by Scott Killian (who also designs the sound).

Thomas and Mullavey have good chemistry and excellent comedic timing (Mullavey, who has been making us laugh since “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” slays us with facial expressions alone). Thomas conveys deeper emotion, reminding us how much we enjoyed seeing her wide range of ability on TV’s “That Girl” so many years ago.

This show is an enjoyable 90-minute, no-intermission romp. And that’s no clever little lie.

Clever Little Lies played at the Westside Theatre, 407 West 43rd St. NYC. Performances are Mondays at 7 pm; Wednesday at 2 and 8 pm; Thursday at 7 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets: $79-$89; (212) 239-6200;

Christians might like to know:
-- Language
-- Sexual dialogue
--God's name taken in vain

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle. and the Episcopal Actors' Guild.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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