Starring in West Coast Players’ production of “Romance in D” are, from left, Kimen Mitchell, Brian Harvey, Mark Myers, Devon Murray.
Relationships may blossom from the most tenuous connections only to evolve into something completely unexpected.
In his play “Romance in D,” Chicago playwright James Sherman examines connections and communication in a modern context, delivering an unpretentious, sincere romance.
“Romance in D” runs through Dec. 16 at West Coast Players Theatre, 21905 U.S. 19 N., Clearwater.
Performances are Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m., and Sundays, 2 p.m. Tickets are $16. Call 437-2363 or visit www.wcplayers.org.
All of the action in “Romance in D” takes place in two side-by-side apartments. In one apartment is Charles, a musicologist. He lives a cloistered lifestyle, preferring his music and books to the company of others. He keeps himself occupied with his work and visits from his mother, Helen Norton.
Next door lives Isabel, a brokenhearted poet on the verge of divorce. After she attempts to emulate Sylvia Plath’s tragic end in a suicide attempt, her concerned father, George Fox, makes frequent visits.
Early on in the play, it is revealed that Charles inadvertently saved Isabel – he smelled gas and called 911. This act provides them with an initial connection from which a relationship may blossom – though both parties remain reluctant, keenly aware of the risks involved. Meanwhile, Helen and George also meet and discover they have similar interests.
In composing “Romance in D,” Sherman employs an approach that evokes music. The first act begins with a number of succinct scenes, epigrammatic yet full of imagery. Like the opening notes of a symphony, these vignettes build anticipation.
Director Mary Kay Cyrus does a marvelous job bringing this down-to-earth story about ordinary people dealing with universal relationship issues to the stage.
“It’s always a pleasure to be part of a show that reminds us that despite our differences, our insecurities and our weaknesses, we can enjoy the simple pleasures of life (music, literature, food and family) and that we do have a chance for romance, laughter and happiness,” writes Cyrus in her message from the director.
Devon Murray plays Isabel Fox. Murray stresses determination over timidity, guaranteeing that the audience doesn’t view the character as a damsel in distress. While Isabel’s deteriorating marriage may have left her emotionally scarred, she is not intended to be viewed as a victim in “Romance in D” any more than Charles is to be seen as a “hero.” Murray maintains Isabel as wounded but not helpless.
Charles Norton is portrayed by Mark Myers. In rendering Charles, Myers deftly paints a reclusive workaholic, a passive misanthrope whose reluctance to form social bonds stems from his own insecurities. Watching Murray and Myers walk their characters through the awkward first steps of a relationship is fascinating.
Kimen Mitchell plays Helen Norton. Mitchell is convincing as a woman who has had a recent epiphany: Her life is far from over. Mitchell balances her character’s concern for her son with her emerging independence.
Starring as George Fox is Brian Harvey. Harvey is ideal for this part: smooth, blunt and a tad pompous. He mitigates the character’s forthrightness by emphasizing his genuine empathy for his daughter’s dilemma. There is an authentic father-daughter chemistry between him and Murray that makes the play far more effective.
The play’s only stumbling block is a dual scene in the second act that involves all four characters engaging in two separate conversations in the two apartments. This split-action dialog is often difficult to follow, and the cast suffered from some pacing issues leading to garbled lines and peculiar pauses. Prop issues – specifically a bag full of groceries spilling its contents onto the floor – actually helped make the play seem all the more true-to-life.
Sherman’s unpretentious play contains a number of subtle elements that make it appealing to a broad audience. “Romance in D” boasts an understated assertion that age has no bearing on romance. Helen and George clearly have a lot of living to do. Communication is another important theme. Sherman chooses a poet – with a gift for words – and a musicologist – who claims music is a superior form of communication – to illustrate how difficult it can be to establish a connection on a personal level.
West Coast Players’ production of “Romance in D” is an entertaining and affecting look at the possibility of love and happiness. It is honest in its admission that not every romance enjoys a fairy tale ending in which lovers live happily ever after. Simultaneously, “Romance in D” conveys optimism, suggesting that those who make that leap of faith may find true love.
Playwright to attend Dec. 15 show
Sherman will attend the performance of “Romance in D” on Saturday, Dec. 15, 8 p.m. The playwright will host a talkback session immediately following the show. For information, call West Coast Players at 437-2363 or visit www.wcplayers.org.