“A Short Stay at Carranor” feels like anything but.
Tracing the final act of a star-crossed romance between a widow and a married man desperate for a last stab at happiness, William Blinn’s play at Theatre West overworks a few simple heartfelt truths about aging and the tensions between fulfillment and propriety.
Lee Meriwether and Donald Moss star as Irene and Chet, septuagenarians whose adulterous affair reaches a fateful turning point during a rendezvous at a lakeside cottage. In a kind of “On Golden Pond”-in-reverse setup, Irene’s prudish daughter Shelby (Corinne Shor) is also on hand, wasting no opportunity to vent her stern disapproval of her mother’s moral relativism.
Black-and-white judgments prove elusive, however, as more of Irene and Chet’s history comes to light. Originally young sweethearts forced apart by social convention who wound up trapped in loveless marriages, they’ve found each other again late in life. After fleeting trysts, new circumstances force them to work out what they really mean to each other.
Meriwether and Moss are sympathetic performers limited by the utter lack of subtext in the dialogue -- everything their characters are thinking and feeling is explicitly spelled out. Although this may foster appreciation that greater clarity and self-awareness may come with maturity, without some room left for discovery there’s nowhere for Irene and Chet to grow. Instead of rage against the dying of the light, pretty much all we get is mopey regret. It’s a telltale problem when daughter Shelby travels a greater dramatic arc than the two lead characters.
In a performance early in the run, the need for more rehearsal time was apparent in John Gallogly’s staging, though the lapses were fixable. More intractable is the way the piece is padded with arbitrary plotting and extraneous characters, needlessly bloating what is essentially a modest little three-hander.
“A Short Stay at Carranor,” Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends Sept. 29. $30 to $34. (323) 851-7977 or www.theatrewest.org. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.