Do we ever really know our closest friends? Even the ones we’ve known for years? This, about a group of college friends attempting to navigate the minefield of middle age, tries to answer this question, among others – and the answer gets lost along the way.
Jane (Julia Coffey), Alan (Mark H. Dold), Tom (Eddie Bordevich) and Marrell (Erica Dorfler) are college friends in their late thirties who have remained close; Tom and Marrell are married with an infant and Jane’s husband has recently passed away, leaving her with a child of her own. The group, however, is on the brink of falling apart: Jane is lost without her husband and does something unforgivable, Tom and Marrell are having marital problems and Alan is having an early mid-life crisis – and none of them can communicate with each other in a helpful way.
The actors are very strong in their roles and as a group; with the ease between them, you truly believe that they have been friends for twenty years. Coffey is powerful as Jane; her attempt to hold it together as much as she can while still mourning her husband is visible not only on her face but in her physicality and audible in her voice as well. Dold is the comic relief as Alan, but isn’t only there to garner laughter – his struggle (realizing he isn’t happy with what he is doing, but having no idea what he should be doing to make himself happy and grasping at any lifeline that presents itself) is very relatable, as is his attempt to be a better person. Paris Remillard, as Jean-Pierre, a doctor Marrell sets Jane up with, serves as a pair of fresh eyes for the group – not only as someone who isn’t on the inside, but, as he is from France, someone seeing everything that is going on through another layer of outsiderness. He brings energy and life to the stage, as well as to the group of friends who’ve grown complacent with one another.
Brian Prather’s set design is both beautiful and multipurpose – a door can be hinged back out of the way, a curtain can be drawn to create a more intimate space. It gives the actors a perfect space in which to play.
As well as the actors perform, the show itself isn’t stellar; there are scenes that are especially gripping, but overall the stakes don’t seem high enough, which is not the fault of Louisa Proske’s fine direction or the actor’s work but the script itself. At times it seems like a lackluster episode of Seinfeld or Friends – just not enough happening to keep one’s interest – and nothing much is answered by the time the show concludes. I’d like to have seen this talented group in a version of this piece that had been worked on a bit, tightened, really made to pop – that would have made a killer combination. As it is, the talent on the stage (and backstage) outweighs the script itself.
“This,” Barrington Stage Company, St. Germain Stage, 36 Linden St., Pittsfield, MA, through August 27, $48-$15, Runtime: 1 hour and 45 minutes, https://barringtonstageco.org/