Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

The Perfect Couple

Brooke Berman
WET Theatre Company
DR2 Theater, New York City
(2008)

Publicity photo of the cast

Our former Edinburgh reviewer, Rachel Lynn Brody, has moved back to the United States and is now giving us the occasional taste of US theatre.

What is an emotional affair? How powerful is someone else's suggestion of the relationship between two people? When a new fact arises, no matter how deeply buried it is in a person's past, can it really alter the way they see their nearest and dearest?

Brooke Berman poses exactly these questions in her play, The Perfect Couple, at the DR2 theater on 15th street, and her characters' journeys toward answers offer a lot to think about.

There is a disconnect between the professed ages of the characters and the appearances of the actors performing the parts; these "40-year-olds" barely look thirty (if that) and this is distracting when so much of Berman's text deals with the real changes in perspective and relationships that comes with age. In the mouths of older actors the dialogue might sound more natural, perhaps bridging a gap between realism and poetics, but as cast some turns of phrase come across as affected and labored rather than snappy and conversational.

Dana Eskelson gives a good performance as Amy, the woman whose reading of a ten-year-old diary entry sets in motion the eventual dissolution of her impending marriage. She commands the audiences' attention, and her character is the one 'adult' in the bunch. While Annie McNamara and James Waterston (Emma and Issac, respectively) are oddly charming to watch, their characters come across as perpetual college students rather than the work-obsessed midlifers they're purported to be.

As an examination of the merits of coupledom vs. the single life, The Perfect Couple makes a strong argument for the latter - and while I'm not sure I believe either Issac or Emma's assertion that they were never in love (although McNamara certainly plays it this way), McNamara does a convincing job as the completely rational-minded dedicated singleton.

The script for The Perfect Couple certainly seems stronger than the production lets on, and part of this may be due to Maria Mileaf's direction; in their performances it is sometimes difficut to tell whether McNamara and Waterston are following specific throughlines which the dialogue seems to imply, while Elan Moss-Bachrach (as the next door neighbor's college-age kid) never seems to know exactly why he's there, beyond showing up to do his job. A scene near the end of the play between his character and Amy therefore seems unmotivated, where Mileaf might have been able to coax her actors into a more pronounced definition of the relationship between these two (even if it was an intentionally ambiguous one) which would have heightened this moment between them.

All this said, The Perfect Couple gives the audience enough to consider that I would recommend seeing it. Not only does it pose interesting questions about relationships and the different ways in which people can care about one another, but it does so in a concise and enticing way.

Reviewer: Rachel Lynn Brody