Review: ‘Washer/Dryer’ needs less softener, more starch
The fluff and fold of old-school boulevard comedy typifies “Washer/Dryer” at East West Players. Indeed, playwright Nandita Shenoy’s study of intercultural newlyweds attempting to co-habit in a New York City co-op is an amiable throwback to the days when “Barefoot in the Park” played the Great White Way.
Sonya (Rachna Khatau), a commercial actress of Indian heritage, and Michael (Ewan Chung), a Chinese American freelancer, have married after a three-month courtship, and he has moved into her apartment (serviceably realized by designers Arturo Betanzos and Sasha Monge).
Except that Sonya hasn’t told the co-op board of her marriage, since her ownership agreement is terminated if someone else moves in, and it’s not only the appliances of the play’s title -- “The Holy Grail of New York real estate” -- that compel her to secrecy.
Unfortunately, Michael has informed Dr. Lee (Karen Huie), his formidable mother, who descends upon the pair to express her disapproval before Michael orders her out.
With the advent of tightly wound Wendee (Nancy Stone), the co-op manager, the situation gets increasingly rumpled, further complicated by Sam (Corey Wright), Sonya’s flamboyant best friend. Everything spins out of control before the final rinse.
Under director Peter J. Kuo’s competent direction, the proceedings are diverting in a Norman Lear way. Khatau’s fresh, understated heroine and Chung’s likable, short-fused hero are nicely matched -- she is hilarious at her climactic meltdown, and he valiantly strives to keep the various tropes from stereotype. Huie and Stone expertly attack their functionary roles, and Wright, who also voices Sonya’s doorman, performs his duties with outsized flair.
That said, at its heart the piece is a sincere, well-intended contrivance that gets its laughs like clockwork but isn’t exactly unfamiliar. Audiences with an appetite for light comedy may well enjoy it, yet this “Washer/Dryer” could use more realistic starch and less synthetic fabric softener.
“Washer/Dryer,” David Hwang Theater at the Union Center of the Arts, 120 Judge John Aiso St., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. $28-$38. (213) 625-7000 or www.eastwestplayers.org. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.
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