It’s a good cast at the surface, Richard Strelinger and Julie Layton play Franklyn and Hannah, the perfect couple, Jerry Russo and Nicole Angeli are their friends, Ben and Martha. Their marriage is a bit rockier, or so it might seem. Beth Wickenhauser does a nice turn in a small scene as Alison, the baby momma. Strelinger’s Franklyn is pretty but none too bright and a terrible writer. Why his community college teacher even notices him is a mystery, and why this plot point abruptly disappears in the second act is an even greater one.
Opening night needed a few more rehearsals to be ready, pacing was rough, transitions were choppy and lines were sometimes less than fluid. Russo and Angeli looked the most ready; their scenes were crisp and their vocal ranges, dynamic. Strelinger and Layton play the first act way over the top, a manic Ethel and Lucy in overdrive. Layton is an actor who benefits from a strong director, and Marty Stanberry, who directs this foolishness, can almost always pull an actor out of their “bag o’ tricks” but her performance suffers from poor body posture, eternally furrowed brow and repetitive hand gestures. Strike two. One expects more from such a great pairing.
Sometimes the actors hit the punch lines so hard they fall to the floor for a ten count, and other times, as in “She brought knish,” they were low and thrown away. Angeli and Russo do a fine job of being droll and genuine, Angeli’s Martha has a honeyed toughness and Russo is a tender curmudgeon. I imagine the pacing and transitions will improve with the first weekend and an audience under their belts, but that still leaves us with this script. I hope the cast finds its stride and eludes the strikeout.
Kosher Lutherans continues at the Kranzberg Arts Center through December 21st.