Joan Raffe, Jhett Tolentino, Douglas Denoff
Clever Little Lies
By Joe DiPietro
Directed by David Saint
Marlo Thomas, Greg Mullavey
George Merrick, Kate Wetherhead
407 West 43rd Street
Scenic Design: Yoshi Tanokura
Costume Design: Esther Arroyo
Lighting Design: Christopher J. Bailey
Sound Design & Composition: Scott Killian
Press: O&M Co.
Advertising: DR Advertising
Marketing: Leann Schanzer Promotions, Inc.
General Management: DR Theatrical Management
Production Supervisor: Production Core
Stage Manager: Jillian M. Oliver
Production Manager: Christopher J. Bailey
Public Relations: Peggy Siegal Company
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 10, 2015 Matinee
I can’t remember laughing throughout a play as I did today, watching Marlo Thomas and the cast of Joe DiPietro’s, one-act Clever Little Lies. The incredible sets, by Yoshi Tanokura, are a tennis club locker room, a car, and a living room, each engaging and perfectly suited to the dialogue and mood. In a New York tennis club locker, businessmen, father and son, Bill, Sr. (Greg Mullavey) and Billy (George Merrick), have just finished a bracing, morning tennis match, won by the elder, and they’re just out of the shower, dressing to continue the day. Billy is distraught, bubbling with anxiety, bursting with a secret he needs to let loose. The married father is obsessed with a trainer at his city gym, a 23 year-old siren, now his lover, and he exudes guilt, on the heels of divorce dilemma. Billy’s young, distracted wife, Jane (Kate Wetherhead), whose own obsession is their baby, would be devastated, if she knew. She’s been given excuses of late meetings and long gym workouts. Profanities fly between father and son, as Bill tries to protect Billy from a disastrous wrong turn. Then, in comes the mother, Alice (a perfectly cast Marlo Thomas), who invites Billy and Jane, in separate calls, to drive from Brooklyn to the country, for dessert and drinks.
During the drive, the audience is treated to moving projections of winding roads and forestial backdrops. Bill and Alice’s living room has a free-flowing liquor cart and a stairway and door, through which characters come and go to allow intimate dialogue that’s more charged than the collective repartee around a cheesecake. Poignant wit abounds, in true DiPietro fashion (see rave reviews for DiPietro’s Nice Work, If You Can Get It, Memphis, All Shook Up, The Thing About Men, and I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.). When Billy is given a parental blitz of histrionic warnings, the scene suddenly shifts to spotlight Alice and Bill, with theoretical twists and turns. Clever Little Lies is evocative of Neil Simon, but with au courant profanity and pregnant, gestural pauses. David Saint’s split-timed direction has the seasoned fine-tuning of Mel Brooks and Jackie Gleason. Every joke succeeds. Mr. Tanokura’s sets and Esther Arroyo’s costumes frame the hassled mom and the leisurely bent, mother-in-law, who bides her time in her suburban book store. Christopher Bailey’s lighting and Scott Killian’s sound are warmly luminous and clear.
As Bill, Sr., Mr. Mullavey personifies worn yet not weary, content yet not confident. He’s a master actor, as is Ms. Thomas, with both capable of dramatically morphing into strong, yet vulnerable personas, imbued with the comic sense of the absurd. In the play’s finale, which should not be revealed, both Ms. Thomas and Mr. Mullavey have well-deserved spotlights. Mr. Merrick, as Billy, exudes emotional combustibility and narcissistic need, personality traits that lend comedy that necessary spark. Ms. Wetherhead, as Jane, plays it mostly straight, busy with her onstage-offstage baby and dreams of a Hawaiian vacation, a venue central to Billy’s dream world, as well. And, speaking of dreams, I cannot wait to see what Mr. DiPietro dreams up next. Kudos to all.
Kate Wetherhead, George Merrick,
Marlo Thomas, Greg Mullavey in
Joe DiPietro's "Clever Little Lies"
Courtesy of Matthew Murphy