By Lauren Wimmer; Directed by James Masciovecchio
Produced by Cave Theatre
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 5.7.17
UNDER St. Marks, 94 St. Marks Place
by Adrienne Urbanski on 4.28.17
Trevor Wade, Elizabeth Chappel, Kiley Caughey, and Alex Etling in Divorce Party. Photo by Alex Etling.
BOTTOM LINE: This madcap comedy packs plenty of laughs and offers some insight into the nature of romantic relationships.
The saying "hell is other people" is certainly proven true in Divorce Party (not to be associated with the musical of the same title), a play featuring three eccentric and dysfunctional couples all of whom are making each other miserable. As Eugene (Trevor Wade) and Melanie (Cassie Wood-Triplett) are getting a divorce, they have invited over their friends to show off how they are staying positive about the entire thing. Melanie has covered the apartment she once shared with Eugene in bright patterned throw pillows and has filled bowls with chocolate-covered strawberries; only the nonstop blasting of "vintage" Sheryl Crow songs gives evidence to her pain. Eugene is far more of an obvious mess—he has taken to carrying a dead beaver in a baby carrier strapped to his chest, dubbing it a support animal.
Their equally dysfunctional friends Greg (Alex Etling) and Liz (Kiley Caughey) arrive, announcing that they have broken up in the car ride over. While her other friends seem to be moving forward with their lives, Liz pines for a chance to relive her youth, envying the high school girls she sees at the mall and desiring the 17-year-old cashier at Mrs. Field's cookies. Meanwhile, Greg shows up obviously inebriated and continues to chug beer after beer as the night goes on. And then there is Ali (Elizabeth Chappel) and Rick (Josh Wood-Triplett), who seem to be far more interested in other people than each other. Ali's intense piercing stare gives a hint to the unease of her mind—Melanie and Eugene's break-up had triggered a mental breakdown, since Ali has been living vicariously through Melanie since college. While Rick baits Ali with promises of sex, he secretly pines for a young woman he met on Craigslist for a hotel hookup that never happened.
As one would guess, the evening falls apart rather quickly as each character's truth is revealed. While Wimmer often goes for absurdist humor, the more realistic and relatable jokes are the funniest ones. And there is at times some deeper insight into relationships that gets buried beneath the over-the-top humor. Wimmer clearly knows how to write humorous situations and compelling characters, but keeping things a little closer to earth might result in a better, more relatable play. The cast puts their all into the roles, giving the performance a ceaseless energy. Etling and Caughey (who I reviewed favorably in Gruesome Playground Injuries) have great chemistry as a couple and maximize the humor in their conflict. Chappel gives a convincing performance as a woman gone mad, choosing enough realism to make her character's insanity more amusing. The choice to use real food also gives Divorce Party a visceral feeling that better emphasizes the emotional states of the characters. There is plenty to like in this production, but those who are not fans of absurdist humor might not appreciate every joke.
(Divorce Party plays at UNDER St. Marks, 94 St. Marks Place, through May 7, 2017. The running time is 80 minutes with no intermission. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8; and Sundays at 3. Tickets are $20 and are available at horsetrade.info. For more information visit cavetheatre.org.)
Divorce Party is by Lauren Wimmer. Directed by James Masciovecchio. Stage Manager is Hannah Delmore.
The cast is Kiley Caughey, Elizabeth Chappel, Alex Etling, Trevor Wade, Cassie Wood-Triplett, and Josh Wood-Triplett.