“Love and Marriage” may be the title of a popular and light-hearted pop song from the 60’s, but a peek into the war zone of infidelity, now on stage at the Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre in Rancho Mirage, presents a deeper and a more complex look into the subject matter.
CV Rep’s mission statement, in part, says “… to present innovative, and at times, adult-themed professional productions as well as outreach programs that enrich and enhance and impact the quality of life for residents and visitors…” which it certainly has done with its two previous productions at the group’s permanent home in the Atrium, in Rancho Mirage.
The absolutely superb actor Judith Chapman (8 years starring on TV’s “The Young and the Restless”) brought her brilliant one-woman show “Vivien” to CV Rep as the opening production for the new acting group. Following “Vivien”, artistic director Ron Celona presented “The Woolgatherer”, another first-rate professional production. Now CV Rep presents the unconventional drama “What the Night is For”.
Playwright Michael Weller’s provocative play directed by Celona, grapples with the sensuous and seductive side of infidelity within two marriages. The two-character story revolves around two former lovers, now both married to others, who meet in a hotel room away from their homes and families. Their apparent reasons for reconnecting are merely to meet for a harmless meal and talk about the “old days”. Each, however, has a hidden agenda, which only emerges with time. The result is a highly charged night of honesty, deceit, passion, hope, and regret. If one considers society’s current mores and cultural zeitgeist, the ending will appeal to those who like to draw their own speculative conclusions, in contrast to those provided by the playwright.
Peter Trencher as Adam, and Jan Broberg as Melinda, sizzle as the two ex lovers, who ultimately ignite the stage with compelling performances when discussing the past and surveying the present minefield and pitfalls of reconnecting again. It’s a deliciously seat-squirming experience. To be sure, there are some laugh lines (possibly audience nervous laughter?), but the two actors perform so extraordinarily well together that one almost experiences guilt feelings for eavesdropping on a real illicit assignation. Broberg’s Melinda role is the flashier of the two and she delivers a tour de force performance in the process. Trencher’s Adam, however, is more than equal to the pressure of Melinda’s passionate outbursts.
Celona has infused the production with many clever directorial touches. For example, the choreography required for Broberg to go from being naked on stage, wrapped only in a bed sheet, and then to get fully dressed – in plain sight of the audience – without appearing salacious, is a feat that would make Gypsy Rose Lee proud.
If Weller’s play seems a bit long, as it did for me, perhaps some judicious trimming might be in order as a way of ameliorating the length of the drama (Remember the oft quoted adage, “less is better”… and stronger).
If there is a bone to pick with this production it’s the story that is the issue, not the actors or the technical credits. The actors are “cooking” up there on that stage, and the creative team delivers on the production credits. Jimmy Cuomo’s clean functional set design, along with lighting designer Ian Comstock and costumes by Aalsa Lee, give the production a neat, trim, and quality look.