Monday, May 1, 2017

Review: ‘Clever Little Lies’ superior comedy-drama of love and marriage at the Bickford

  1. clever trio

    Joe DiPietro‘s Clever Little Lies, which premiered to critical acclaim in 2013 at the George Street Playhouse and then recently enjoyed a successful stint Off-Broadway, is now at the Morris Museum’s Bickford Theatre. It will be presented through May 7. This production of the comedy-drama of love and marriage, directed by Producing Artistic Director Eric Hafen, has a marvelous cast; Harriett Trangucci (Alice), Bob Mackasek (Bill Sr.), Ben Kaufman (Billy), and Rachel Matusewicz (Jane). This cast is the equal to the Broadway cast led by Marlo Thomas at the GSP four years ago.

    harrietHarriett Trangucci (left), one our finest actresses, last appeared on the Bickford stage in Plaza Suite. She is a regular at the Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre in Summit. For her performance in The Other Place, we awarded her our Best Actress Footlights Award. Playing her husband Bill (we’ll get to the plot shortly) is Bob Mackasek. Bob is beyond terrific in this role. We saw veteran actor Greg Mullavey in the part at the GSP. We gave Mullavey high marks, but Mackasek is spot-on in this role that requires a roller coaster of emotions…the why and how is for the playgoer. Playing Bill and Alice’s son and restless husband, Billy is Ben Kaufman, who is early in his career, but is the equal of the group. Rounding out the small cast is Rachel Matusewicz as Jane. She is a Jersey girl, making her Bickford debut, but she has appeared at the Luna Stage and Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey among others. Rachel nicely nails the sympathetic role of the neglected daughter-in-law and new mother.

    Ok, the plot: Clever Little Lies is a beautifully written and performed story of secrets and confessions about love, marriage, and fidelity. Without venturing too deep into the plot, the story involves just four people, a mother and father, Alice and Bill, and their grown son, Bill Jr. and daughter-in-law Jane. Oh yes, also the young couple’s baby. Over the course of 90 minutes (no intermission) we are exposed to their secrets, some of which are decades old, in the signature DiPietro manner of holding up a mirror for us to see the truth about ourselves, no matter how painful, all the time making us laugh. And, we do laugh at this clever tale while touched by the poignant manner in which the conflict is resolved.

    clever bob billThe play starts in a locker room with father and son dressing after their weekly tennis match. This day is special, since Bill Sr. has for the first time defeated his son, 30 years younger. Quickly, the father senses that his son is harboring a secret (the son's tears are a bit of a clue!). Problem at work? Has he lost his job? No, the son confesses to his father that he is cheating on his wife. In fact, he is in love, having wild sex three times a week, with his gorgeous gym trainer. The son makes his father swear that he will never reveal his secret. Except for a quick, impressive scene in a car, the story is cleverly played out in Bill and Alice's living room. We go no further with the plot.

    A note about playwright: Joe DiPietro, a Tony Award-winner for the musical Memphis and the author of the long-running comedy I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, has been most often compared to Neil Simon. He writes rapid-fire comic dialogue of which there is plenty in Clever Little Lies which the New York Times called “good old-fashioned comfort food for theatregoers … with maybe just a hint of sting.”

    The production team for Clever Little Lies includes Rose Pancirov (Assistant to the Director), Leanne Long-Hulin (Production Stage Manager), Roman Kilma (Scenic and Lighting Designer), Ric McAllister (Costume Designer), Pasquale DeNigri (Sound Designer), Danielle Pietrowski (Properties).

    Tickets for Clever Little Lies are $45 for the General Public; $40 for Seniors; $38 for Museum Members; and $20 for Students (18 & under or with valid college ID). Group rates are available.Clever Little Lies contains adult language and adult situations.

    Tickets may be purchased online at morrismuseum.org, by phone at (973) 971-3706, or in person at the Bickford Theatre Box Office. The Morris Museum’s Bickford Theatre is located at 6 Normandy Heights Road in Morristown, NJ, and offers free parking and full accessibility. Box office hours for phone sales are Monday through Friday, 10:00am to 5:00pm. Walk-up hours are Tuesday through Friday, 11:00am to 5:00pm.

    Performances

    Thursday, May 4, 2 pm (audio described performance)
    Friday, May 5, 8 pm
    Saturday, May 6, 2 pm
    Sunday, May 7, 2 pm

    harriet cutoutAbout the Bickford Theatre
    The Bickford Theatre is a professional theater that produces and presents year-round entertainment, including a Main Stage Series, two Children’s Theatre series, a Jazz Showcase Series, and other concerts. The theatre is an Equity Producing Theatre member of the New Jersey Theatre Alliance, a not-for-profit organization of 30 professional theaters throughout the state, and works in conjunction with Actors' Equity Association (AEA) and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC). From its beginnings in 1994 to the present, tens of thousands of theater-goers from across the tri-state area have enjoyed the Bickford Theatre’s many entertaining and diversified offerings in theatre, music and dance.

    About the Morris Museum

    Founded in 1913, the Morris Museum is an award-winning, community-based arts and cultural institution which serves the public through high-caliber exhibitions in the arts, sciences and humanities.  The Museum also offers educational programs, family events, and is home to the Bickford Theatre and its wide range of performing arts offerings. Continuously serving the public since 1913, the Morris Museum has been designated a Major Arts Institution and has received the New Jersey State Council on the Arts’ Citation of Excellence, among other awards. The first museum in New Jersey to be accredited, the Morris Museum was re-accredited in 2013 by the American Alliance of Museums. 

    The Morris Museum is a Blue Star Museum, offering free admission to active duty military personnel and their families, from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

    Location and Hours

    The Museum is located at 6 Normandy Heights Road (at the corner of Columbia Turnpike) in Morristown, NJ, and is open Tuesday, Wednesday,Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 11:00am to 5:00pm and Sunday, 12:00 to 5:00pm. In addition, the Museum is open evenings from 5:00 to 8:00pm on the second and third Thursday of the month. Admission to the Museum is $10 for adults and $7 for children, students and senior citizens. Admission is always free for Museum members.  For more information, call (973) 971-3700, or visit www.morrismuseum.org.

    TOP PHOTO: L-R  Ben Kaufman, Harriet Trangucci & Bob Mackasek

    2. Harriet Trangucci

    3. Ben Kaufman & Rachel Matusewicz

    4. Bob Mackasek & Ben Kaufman

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