There are ups and downs in marriage, as any couple will tell you; some days are easier than others, and sometimes you have to make the decision if the grass is greener on the other side. Deciding this may become one of marriage’s many secrets, kept in order to not hurt the other person. Clever Little Lies takes a look at these secrets between couples (and within families) – but the end result is unfortunately muddled.
After a tennis match, Bill (Sky Vogel) realizes something’s going on with his son Billy (Jay Reum); the truth emerges that Billy is having an affair with a younger woman and wants to leave his wife, Jane (Erin Harwood). When Bill goes home, his wife Alice (Meg Dooley) manages to get enough of the story out of him that she immediately invites Billy and Jane over in order to fix what’s wrong, and the emotions of the evening become very high and boil over, leaving no one unscathed.
Joe DiPietro’s script is the problem here. The idea behind the play is sound, but it’s not well-written; there’s no true emotion behind anything anyone says or does, and it’s such a slight show, running at just under an hour and a half, that the stakes need to be higher – but there just don’t seem to be any stakes at all. Jane seems like she’d be better off without Billy, who comes off as a self-absorbed brat, and Bill and Alice are given so little to do that we don’t know enough about them to care what happens to them when their story comes around.
The actors are given a tough job, having to work with this script, and I commend them for doing as well as they possibly could, given that they were given next to nothing to work with. Vogel (who, it seems, stepped into the role last-minute) is strong as Bill; I wish we could have known more about the character, to be honest, as he seemed interesting. Dooley has one of the best monologues in the piece talking about how bookstores are becoming obsolete, but she doesn’t have the fire I wanted to see while delivering it (I know a number of people who are book-obsessed, and I’ve heard them giving variations of this speech – they wouldn’t have spoken this calmly about the loss of one of our favorite institutions.) Reum does what he can with what is essentially an irredeemable character (his scene in the car with Harwood is a standout) and Harwood is solid as Jane, but again, I wanted to see more fire from her, especially when having to deal with a husband who treated her as disposable.
Director Cathy Lee-Visscher also designed the set, which was my favorite part of the production; transformable from a beautiful living room to a locker room or a car with some moving flats.
Overall, the show didn’t work for me, but I give credit to the group for giving it their all – a nearly impossible task considering the source material.
“Clever Little Lies,” The Ghent Playhouse, 6 Town Hall Place, Ghent; through February 4; $22-$10; Run time: 85 minutes; (518) 392-6264; http://www.ghentplayhouse.org/