Thursday November 23rd 2017

“Lips Together,Teeth Apart”

Remarcable Productions, is one of our local companies that strives to create theater experiences that are engaging and entertaining. Co-founder Seth Remington, who directed their current production of Terrance McNally’s “Lips Together-Teeth Apart”, may have taken on a  little more that he could handle as he also handled the scenic design, and the lighting design which are time consuming pieces of the whole. While I found this story one of great interest, I am not so sure of what it was McNally was  trying to communicate to us, and of greater import, if Remington was truly conveying to us what McNally was trying to impart on us, the viewing audience. This is a four character story- two couples -who are at an ocean front home  in Long Island during July 4th of 1991. One of the couples,  Sam and Sally Truman have inherited this marvelous home from Sally’s brother David who has just past away from AIDS. Sam’s sister Chloe and her husband John have joined them for this week end.

Based on the play, we can guess that we are on what is called “fire island” as all of the surrounding homes are filled with Gay couples and there are indeed many references throughout the script to the Gay community. In fact, there is a great deal of talk about the pool and the fear of entering it by these couples as if they do, will they be infected by the AIDS virus that may still be lurking in the waters. These are four characters who are all with issues of heir own and their lives are affected by the others. The biggest problem for these people is their failure to communicate with each other. Each of them holds back what it is they desire to share and in doing so allows tthe problem to grow and fester until it is much larger than what reality would have it be.

Sally is our main character ( a delightful and insightful performance by Jill Connolly). She is pained by her brother’s death and in fact the lifestyle he chose for himself and the fact that she is childless. She desires very much to have a child but each time she conceives, it seems to fail. Her husband Sam ( Christopher Marcum) appears to be a nice, loving husband, but although he loves his wife, does not feel that he would make a decent father, yet has never told Sally this. The other couple  on this holiday week-end is  Sam’s sister Chloe ( a vibrant portrayal by Jeanne T. Arrigo) and her husband John ( John Arthur Lewis). As we learn more about these characters , we find that John and Sally have had an affair and that John has been diagnosed with cancer. Chloe, a woman who loves community theater and has a song for almost every occasion is the perfect hostess for the week end constantly serving food and drink, feeling that this will make for the perfect week end.

Each of the characters, having personal problems makes for a detailed character study. While each seems okay and normal, perhaps like your neighbor or cousin, underneath they have deep rooted problems and are unable to convey the depth of them to anyone. Each has bottled up their problems and  as the story progresses, reaches the point where they will blow thier tops. This is not by any means a comedy, but in fact, a tragedy with some comic moments. Sally for exapmple, as she is doing a painting of the ocean, sees a young man drop his robe and enter the ocean. Later she sees him, far out, waving his arms and then even later, he is gone. After awhile, he shows up onn the shore, drowned. Could she have helped him? If she had called for help, would he still be alive? Was she so wrapped up in her own life that she just forgot about what she saw. Sally is pregnant, but has been before only to lose the child. She is not aware that her husband doesn’t want a child. She has had an affair with her brother-in-law and during this week end both of the other spouses learn of this affair.

Communication ha sto be the theme of this play. If people get so wrapped up in themselves that they fail to hear what others are saying, there is no chance they can fix whatever it is that they are failing at. It took a long time for me to see this and I cannot tell if it is the script or the direction that took us to this point. As an overall production, I was impressed with the set, although I would have preferred the pool not be the little square that it was ( it seemed very fake), but would have preferred using the front of the stage to appear there was a pool of water there. The house and deck seemed very real and in fact reminded me of my brother-in-law’s Union Pier Summer house. The costumes by Rachel Sypniewski were very realistic and the fight choreography by John Moran was solid. The actors in this 4 person cast were all dynamic. Chloe, always with a song form a musical and her costumes as if she were onstage (Ms. Arrigo truly made her work), Sam , ( Marcum made him very real, almost the guy next door, who loves his wife and works hard to make her happy but doesn’t want exactly what she does), Sally ( Ms. Connolly is very real- the most real of all four in that she sees life from a perspective that she cannot deal with.) and last but not least, John ( Lewis is a solid actor, but an expressionless one and in a play of over two hours, it is hard to watch someone who never changes his facial expression). I would have to say that the real message of this play is if you want to have a good life, you need to communicate with your family and friends. Don’t just tell them what you think they want to hear, but the truth. Also, to have true communication, one must listen to the other person as well. If we all do this, we will have much easier and perhaps healthier existences.

“Lips Together” will continue at the Viaduct Theater located at 3111 N.Western, just south of  Belmont, through July 2nd with performances as follows:

Thursdays,Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.

The play runs approx 2hours-fifteen minutes ( act one is 90 minutes, then a 10 minute intermission and act two, 35 minutes)

Tickets are a mere $18, a real bargain for live theater anytime!

Tickets can be purchased by calling 773-296-6024 or online at www.viaducttheatre.com

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