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Story: Men and women who contact each other through an online dating service arrange “meetings” at the Park Avenue Coffee Shop. Terming their get-togethers ‘meetings’ instead of ‘dates’ is supposed to take the edge off as two strangers introduce themselves and possibly their romantic aspirations in neutral territory.

Frank is a cocky, macho guy who likes to impress the ladies with stories of his entrepreneurial skills, tales that tend to bend the truth outrageously. He’s surprised and disappointed when his ‘meeting’ associate Kathleen orders a black coffee rather than anything more exotic.

Frank’s brain assesses Kathleen as dull and boring because of her plain request, but he goes ahead and adds her coffee to his own order at the counter. On the advice of his brain, Frank attempts to look interested when Kathleen talks about her work, especially her charity endeavors.

His gray matter, however, is way more excited about some cute young thing who saunters by their table, much to the consternation of Kathleen’s own brain, which seems considerably more mature. Their meeting ends all too quickly.

Roger has arranged to introduce himself to Sandra (pronounced “Sahn-dra,” she insists) at the same coffee shop. He seems like a pleasant enough guy, certainly appearing attractive to Sandra’s brain. Roger’s thinking self finds Sandra somewhat appealing as well, although Roger maintains his composure while Sandra goes on and on about some exotic tea she prefers over any humdrum coffee.

Trouble is, though, Sandra is not exactly who she pretends to be and so the two agree to disagree about the future.

What might happen, though, if Frank and his over-active libido get together with Sandra while Roger meets the more refined Kathleen? The same four people but arranged differently. Hmm. Maybe this time kismet could actually happen.

Highlights: Playwright and St. Louis native Michael Madden’s comedy about the trials and travails of modern matches via sophisticated online dating services recently was given a winning and hilarious presentation by a sextet of talented local performers for Madden Productions at the Gaslight Theater under the inspired direction of Pamela Reckamp.

Other Info: Madden has resided in San Diego for nearly 40 years, but the graduate of McBride High School, UMSL and Logan College of Chiropractic (now Logan University) still has strong bonds to family and friends in The Lou.

The long-time chiropractor turned to acting when he retired from his successful practice a few years ago and has been involved in the San Diego theater community since that time. Eventually he decided to try his hand at writing, penning a short one-act comedy which garnered some awards on the West Coast.

Later he expanded that effort into its current incarnation, which runs less than 90 minutes even with a 15-minute intermission. The four brief scenes which comprise Maybe This Time really don’t need to be divided into equal halves by an interlude. That’s no big deal, however, especially when performed before three sold-out houses in its recent production at Gaslight Theater.

Madden’s humor is sharp, witty and hilarious, although insertions of St. Louis area comments such as the departure of recent Cardinals manager Mike Matheny don’t add anything useful to the show’s comic core. Additionally, a reference to the ‘beach’ at Creve Coeur Lake just isn’t the same as the play’s original setting in San Diego and the Pacific Ocean.

Those are minor quibbles, however. Nurtured by Reckamp’s patient and carefully honed direction, her performers make the most of Madden’s amusing dialogue as well as some poignant observations about life, love and loneliness and the ongoing quest for human companionship.

Todd Micali steals the show as the amped-up brain for Frank, putting his flair for physical comedy to fitfully funny use as he gyrates in reaction to Sandra’s physical attractiveness and her flirtatious approach. He shows his versatility, too, as the thinking matter for the more subdued and cerebral Roger, changing his appearance from disheveled exuberance to introspective wonder.

Paul James does a fine job portraying the laid-back Roger, a pleasant enough chap hoping to perhaps make a connection with a woman who shares his even-keeled approach to life. He contrasts sharply with Carrie Priesmeyer as the gold-digging Sandra while complementing Mara Bollini as the charming nurse Kathleen.

Bollini and Tonya Darabescek work smoothly together as Kathleen and her refined brain as they size up the oafish Frank or assess their possibilities with the amiable Roger. Darabescek is equally effective as the feverish grey matter for Sandra, who is desperate to find some financial security and will say whatever she can to make that happen, which Priesmeyer amusingly conveys.

There’s also good work by George Doerr IV as the thick-skulled Frank, who doesn’t really understand or care about anything Kathleen says but is considerably drawn to the shallow come-on of Sandra, showing how mutually beneficial matches aren’t always made in heaven.

Madden shows a deft touch for funny dialogue as well as a knack for smartly assessing how people relate to each other but yet can complicate communications in order to elevate self-worth or dampen the pain of possible rejection. Maybe This Time succeeds at telling it like it is in funny and fulfilling fashion.

Play: Maybe This Time

Company: Madden Productions

Venue: Gaslight Theater, 358 North Boyle

Dates: Run completed

Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.

Artwork courtesy of Madden Productions