Love and Laughs Abound in Lighthearted 'Marrieds'

What happens when a housewife leaves her kids with her mother and goes to a local hotel wearing only a pair of black, strappy high heels and a black mink coat? In Stuart Wolpert's hilarious comedy "The Marrieds," at the Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center, she gets to know her neighbors--and not in the biblical sense.

A middle-aged couple, Alan (Kurt Fuller) and Susan (Alison Martin) Nederman, escape the burden of their daily worries at a local hotel. But when the newlywed couple next door, Joe (Geoffrey Lower) and Jane (Mary Page Keller) Fuller, get noisy enough to interfere with Alan's sexual concentration, Alan complains to the management. Joe comes over to apologize, and with this "cute-meet," the couples form a friendship that will cover a decade's worth of tribulations.

Wolpert filled this sweet comedy with snappy zingers and hopeful sentiments about marriage and monogamy, proving that functional families can be funny and marriage doesn't kill the libido. The Nedermans and Fullers both raise children and face marital crises that we learn about in six snippets of life that have an episodic, slightly sitcom feel. But there's no need for canned laughter.

The children are only an offstage presence--talked about but not heard and seen only in passing (as dolls). Wolpert centers this comedic whirl on the lovable, egocentric Alan, who too often frankly states his feelings. With bulging eyes and a rapid-fire rant, Fuller gives Alan a slight touch of obnoxious smarminess that is offset by good intentions.

Martin plays Susan as the more sensible and sensitive spouse. Lower and Keller beam enthusiasm and youthful hope, and easily make the transition into adoring bores when parenthood descends. Yet the show really belongs to Fuller.

The piece whizzes along under the crisp direction of Wolpert, who, save for one moment in the second act--when an Alan soliloquy is lighted by a heavy spot--avoids excessive sappiness. Robert L. Smith's scenic design cleverly transforms a tightly packed venue from a hotel room with a double bed into a garage that enshrines Alan's new Mercedes.

Wolpert's comedy has no grand message outside the tongue-in-cheek motto "Families should be connected by more than sewer lines." This wishful thinking about forming communities leads to little substantive development and an ending that's a bit too pat. But taken as a trifle meant to entertain, this is an enjoyable little romp.


* "The Marrieds," Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center, 11006 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Indefinitely. $25. (818) 761-0704. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes.

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