Theatre Review

Trinity’s ‘Faithful Cheaters’ unexpected farcical folly

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Rhode Island’s Tony Award-winning Repertory Theatre, home of such classics as Shakespeare’s “Othello,” August Wilson’s “Fences” and Harold Pinter’s “The Homecoming,” now gives us an unexpected farcical folly, filled with pratfalls, puns, playfulness, peculiar and prurient people and a plethora of laughs.

Playwright-in-residence Deborah Salem Smith, who brought her profound “Boots on the Ground” to Trinity, shows us another side of her creativity in the hilarious satirical comedy, “Faithful Cheaters,” two hours of nonstop laughter injected with some subtle sociological and psychological insights into the status of marriage, honesty and fidelity.

Poppy (Rebecca Gibel) and Theo (Stephen Thorne) have invited her parents, Marion (Anne Scurria) and Nance (Karen MacDonald), to a ramshackle “resort” they are buying on a lake in Sonoma in the hopes of getting them to invest in much needed renovations. Both Poppy and Theo have secrets. Poppy has cheated on her husband, while Theo has spent the money they have saved for the purchase.

Theo lies to Nance, who is reluctant to invest in the property, telling her that his nasal spray is actually a secret formula for keeping couples monogamous. That’s the not-so-subtle irony in the play.

The situation gets complicated. Very complicated, as Poppy’s lover (Charlie Thurston) shows up, and Phil (Mauro Hantman), a weekend squatter, adds his two cents to every conflict…and there are plenty.

Director Melia Bensussen has taken Salem Smith’s frantic writing and stage directions and made them even more frantic. There isn’t a moment for the characters and the audience to take a breath.

Characters jump in and out of the two rundown shacks, get caught up in a pop-up tent, and run haphazardly around the creative set that Cristina Todesco has designed for them.

There are many moments of absolute chaos, all filled with rapid-fire and hysterical dialogue that comes at you so fast that laughter occasionally drowns out lines. My guess is that the director, author and actors will work together during the premiere of this clever, frantic production to tighten some of the scenes a bit.

In the days of very serious plays being written by contemporary authors, there certainly is a need for silliness and whimsy, and this play has plenty of that. The cast is terrific, with great comic timing, both with dialogue and physical movement, even on opening night.

Boston-area actress Karen MacDonald is a fine addition to the Trinity troupe, making the perfect counterpoint to her wife, the incredible Anne Scurria, who owns every role she plays.

I couldn’t stop laughing every time Hantman opened his mouth. The author has given him some of the best lines, and he knows how to handle them. Gibel, Thorne and Thurston are three of Trinity’s most talented younger actors, and they seem to be having the most fun with their roles.

“Faithful Cheaters” will make you laugh, and not just little chuckles. The cast brings out their foibles, failures and personalities in this entertaining farce.

“Faithful Cheaters” is at Trinity’s downstairs (Dowling) theatre through May 21. Call 351-4242 for reservations.

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