Group: New Jewish Theatre
Venue: Wool Studio Theatre, Jewish Community Center, 2 Millstone Campus
Dates: February 23, 24, 26, 27, March 2, 3, 5, 6
Tickets: $34-$38; contact 314-442-3283 or www.newjewishtheatre.org
Story: Once upon a time a musician named Sam fell in love with a beautiful young woman named Rose. His passion moved him to write a song about her that became a huge hit. So huge, in fact, that Sam and Rose married and lived comfortably off the royalties of Sam’s sole fling at fame. They had a son and a nice home, but on the verge of their 25th wedding anniversary Sam yearned to rekindle his flickering flame of creativity.
While Rose tends to her shop, Sam goes surfing on the Internet from his home office, “friending” numerous young women on Facebook and engaging in the game of Scrabulous online in search of a modern Muse. When Rose finds out, she attempts to rekindle their romance by booking a tour of the Mediterranean. When Sam tragically falls overboard after hearing a beautiful and mysterious sound, he washes up on an extremely small island inhabited by a solitary siren who spends her days calling unsuspecting tourists to their deaths or playing solitaire on a handheld device that had washed ashore.
Is this the Muse that Sam has longed for? And what will Rose do, assuming her husband has drowned? Has their ‘comfortable’ but passionless marriage ended on a tragic note?
Highlights: A one-act comedy written by Deborah Zoe Laufer, “Sirens” had its world premiere in 2010 at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville. With a cast of four players and a minimal set as well as a situation that will strike a familiar chord with many audience members, “Sirens” is a frothy, diverting work that doubtless will be the source of many future productions. Currently, it’s enjoying its local premiere in a pleasant little presentation at New Jewish Theatre.
Other Info: The quaint scenic design by Courtney Sanazaro, which utilizes a quartet of overhanging screens at each end of the theater and a few well-appointed props courtesy of Wendy Renee Greenwood, allows for a theater-in-the-round interpretation that allows players to perform throughout the spacious stage area.
Maureen Hanratty’s lighting illuminates the illusion of water on the floor for the Mediterranean scenes, Teresa Doggett provides the whimsical attire for Leah Berry as the siren as well as more modern attire for the other characters, and Robin Weatherall contributes a pop pastiche sound design that gives way to some haunting original music by Matthew Callahan in the siren’s song as well as Sam’s revitalized efforts.
Kari Ely and Bobby Miller have fun as the middle-age couple approaching their silver anniversary from different vantage points. While Miller has a tendency to deliver his lines in a nasal twang that sounds like one of Woody Allen’s nebbish characters, Ely fills the role of Rose with considerable spunk and pizzazz. She’s especially amusing when Rose quickly falls back into the dating scene after Sam’s supposed death overboard, meeting her old high school flame, Richard Miller, at a restaurant.
As played masterfully by the youthful John Kinney, complete with a kitschy vocabulary of romantic Italian phrases, Rose’s romantic memories of Richard show him to be exactly the same as she remembers him, while the attending waitress and others see him as “my father’s age.” Leah Berry completes the cast by showing her versatility in three roles, as an anxious travel agent trying to reel in the Abrams as customers, as the aforementioned casual waitress and as the frustrated siren of the seas.
“Sirens” has its share of humorous and entertaining moments, and director Tom Miller keeps the pace brisk and the scene changes entertaining with a run crew whose mod look and attire maintain the festive approach. Those moments, however, ebb and flow like the waves rolling up on that isolated island on which Sam seeks shelter and finds his muse. The funny bits, such as Rose as a spry grandmother in the future, show Laufer’s deft hand with humor, while the scenes depicting the siren’s fascination with solitaire can be tedious.
Although the performers are adept at delivering Laufer’s often witty lines, somehow her observations about aging, the quest for self-definition, marriage and enduring love end up treading familiar water.
Rating: A 3.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.