There are shoves, jabs and punches in “Fighting Over Beverley,” now at the Theatre at the Arts Garage in Delray Beach.
Not literally. Well, not much.
Most of the action isn’t physical as much as confined to verbal slices and emotional dices in the romantic comedy — on second thought, make that romantic dramedy — written by prolific playwright Israel Horovitz (with 70 plays under his belt) and directed with leanness by Louis Tyrrell, artistic director of the Theatre at the Arts Garage.
There are so many secrets, so many lies that come to light over a fluid one hour and 40 minutes with a 15-minute intermission. A great many of them are revealed in a doozy of a second act.
The first act ain’t bad, either. It’s winter in Gloucester, Mass. (Horovitz’ favorite locale) , and septuagenarian Archie (Dennis Creaghan) is trying to convince long-ago-love Beverley (Sandra Shipley) to leave her World War II ace pilot hero hubby, Zelly (Paul O’Brien), and return home to Britain with him.
“You in my head and no one in my bed,” Archie says before adding, “He’s had you for 52 years. Enough is enough.”
Having invited Archie, whom Beverley also calls Arthur, as a houseguest, she is understandably concerned that her Yank husband’s ornery and contentious nature will grind against Archie’s personality, which is fleet and funny (as long as you like your humor tinged with Archie Bunker-like intolerance).
And just when the frequent tea breaks couldn’t seem any more uncomfortable, in dive-bombs Beverley and Zelly’s daughter, Cecily (Erin Joy Schmidt), running from what seems to be an impending third divorce.
“I can never find myself in anything you say,” observes Beverley, ruing that she did not take her daughter back to England. For her part Cecily sizes up the problem as being the effect men have on women in general. “We are weak in their presence,” Cecily concludes.
The humor folded into the dialogue offers one arid razz after another. It’s particularly effective, spaced as it is with bursts of searing drama. The acting is mind-meldingly seamless, even when some of the kettle-boiler monologues go on too long and snap us out of the spell (no one rants that long without adjusting medication).
But this is a fair fight. Everyone has their skills.
“Fighting Over Beverley” is running through March 23 at Arts Garage, 180 NE First St., in Delray Beach. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, with 2 p.m. matinees Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets cost $30 to $45. Call 561-450-6357 or go to ArtsGarage.org.