Isn't It Romantic?

By Wendy Wasserstein (Kirkwood Theatre Guild)

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The Kirkwood Theatre Guild opened Wendy Wasserstein's somewhat tiresome, rather predictable play Isn't It Romantic? last Friday and will continue it next weekend. It is supposed to be a comedy, but the play is dated. Its issues are 10 years old, and they seem to be grinding a major axe for a neck that's already been cleft. And, alas, neither cast nor director seems to know which lines are supposed to be the funny ones -- or, if they do, they deliver the lines so slowly and with such pauses in between that the humor escapes into the ether. We tend to see such pokiness as evidence of the actors' not having the lines down solidly. Whatever the cause, the result is too slow a play.

There's more bad news. The two acts of Isn't It Romantic? have 13 scenes requiring 11 set changes. Wasserstein has put voice messages between many of the scenes, and a lot of directors would make set changes during those voiced-over messages. But no: First the messages play, then we sit in the gloom for as long as a minute, watching cutesy stagehands leisurely rearrange the stage, developing characters instead of getting the set changed. OK, it's an amateur production, but it's a production by a company that's been around 69 years and can do much, much better. On the other hand, we're talking about an opening-night performance, so perhaps the jitters interfered.

Isn't It Romantic? concerns the progress of two young women in their late 20s, Janie Bloomberg (Jamee Heligman) and Harriet Cornwall (Saskia de Vries), who've come to conquer New York City -- Janie as a freelance writer, Harriet as a business executive. The principal issue is the yawn-making battle between career and heterosexual relationships; minor issues are friendship (honesty in) and family (separating from). Janie has a pushy mother (Mary Mo Monahan) who needs a brick upside the head and a physician boyfriend (Trevor Biship) who needs the brick up somewhere else. Harriet has a successful business-executive mother of measured merriment (Marcia La Cour-Little) and a jerky boss'-boss/boyfriend (Howie Hirshfield). Arthur Baum makes Janie's father, Simon, a pleasant fellow, and William Ledbedder is gently and understatedly funny as Vladimir, a possible husband for Janie if he can learn English.

Geoffrey Harris' lighting design is more than adequate, as are Pat Rosenbaum's costumes and Paul Thomas' sound design. Some extra study and rehearsal might bring the rest of the production up to that level by this coming Friday.

Isn't It Romantic? continues March 16-18.

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