Clever Little Lies

Joe DiPietro
Westside Theatre, New York

There will always be a market for superficial sitcoms and, in Clever Little Lies, Joe DiPietro probably aspires to something a little deeper but not all that much.

The situation is simple. George Merrick’s Billy has been cheating on his wife Jane, played by Kate Wetherhead, with his personal trainer Jasmine, who drives the drama from offstage.

To spice up the story, the married couple have a baby of only a few months, while the gorgeous other woman is a decade or more her lover’s junior.

The catalyst for angst is a confession by far from bright (though a lawyer) Billy to Greg Mullavey as his father Bill, an oldie who must have been absent when they were handing out both brains and common sense.

It takes Marlo Thomas in the role of sharp mother Alice only minutes to draw the news out and she invites Billy and Jane around for a little meddling family chat that serves the play’s purpose perfectly.

What ensues is embarrassment and humiliation all round. Oddly, this is accentuated by lengthy farce-style pauses while all look into space to get additional laughs since the play is no farce.

Billy’s sterling efforts to hide his passion for Jasmine are soon shot down in noisy flames by his parents and a convenient series of 'phone calls. A second revelation, which initially seems like a tall story but eventually turns out to be anything but, is intended to put affairs into perspective and does add depth to the evening.

Scenic designer Yoshi Tanokura has either been given a lavish budget, is a genius or both, since the set that starts as a swanky locker room and reveals a realistically affluent family living room is complemented by some effective film work to set the scene and carry along the plot.

The intimacy he creates is somewhat dissipated by the use of microphones that send sound in odd directions at times and seem unnecessary in a reasonably small theatre.

Director David Saint has asked his acting quartet to milk the laughs and use TV sitcom techniques, rather than seek realism, which will not stop addicts of this genre from relating to the events taking place across the 90 minutes.

By the end, the writer’s intention to make some strong moral points has an effect, though these can get lost in the attempts to get laughs.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher