Friday, July 8, 2011
(photo by Joan Marcus)
Michael Weller returns to MCC Theatre with the other side of the story from 2008's Fifty Words. He's got a little more to say this time around, but it's the performances that make the visit worthwhile.
Bipolar Melinda (Joely Richarson) doesn't like to take her medicine, which frustrates her politically ambitious husband Hugh (Cotter Smith) to no end. With two sons echoing Melinda's polar split (perfect son vs. screw-up son), both Melinda and Hugh maintain a total disregard for human nature that encourages this. Their relationship devolves quickly as Hugh's political star begins to rise. Melinda is angry at being dragged along the for the ride and takes every opportunity to spoil the possibilities. Hugh remains the definition of calm, cool and collected, until Melinda pushes him over the edge following the boys' car accident with her own breakdown. Melinda's affair with Adam (from Fifty Words) shows up to push the plot along, but feels contrived since it's no more than a couple of one-sided telephone calls for exposition.
Ms. Richardson elevates the proceedings merely by walking on stage. Elegant and glamorous, she builds a third dimension that would challenge a lesser talent. Mr. Smith supports sufficiently, though not quite demonstrating skill to the level of Ms. Richardson.
Mr. Weller provides lots of emotion and gains considerable benefit with the very talented cast. Were it not for the considerable skill of Ms. Richardson, particularly, the stilted dialog would drag even more than it did. It's a better effort than Fifty Words, but not by much.
The exquisite living room is by Beowulf Boritt (and Ethan Allan) in warm neutrals with earthy red accents. Jeff Croiter's lighting complements well.
Side Effects closed on July 3.