Regional Reviews: New Jersey
One Slight Hitch: Farcical Comedy Penned by
The time is the summer of 1981. The setting is the comfortable suburban Cincinnati home of the middle-aged Doc and Delia Coleman on the morning of the wedding day of their daughter Courtney. They are very anxious as they complete arrangements for the wedding that they are about to host. The independent Courtney is an acerbic, successful New York based writer, whom no one would have expected to have a traditional wedding, if she were to marry at all. Her fiancé Harper is handsome, sweet natured and considerate, but he is also a boring, discomfortingly stuffy Midwest Republican. On hand for the nuptials are Courtney's single sister, the sexually aggressive, drinking and drugging Melanie who hits the liquor cabinet upon her return from her nursing shift at the hospital, and their teenage sister P.B., who, as our narrator, is the purveyor of nostalgia for '80s pop music and culture as she nimbly dances about to the tunes on her Walkman while she performs her chores.
The situation around which the entire play revolves is the unexpected arrival from New York of Courtney's ex-boyfriend Ryan, who is also a writer. Their three year long relationship ended when Courtney decided that she couldn't marry him after all. He is shocked that she is getting married so soon after their break-up, and he would not leave even if his only clothes were not in the wash. There is the implicit question as to whom Courtney will marry or if she will marry at all. No one on stage really seems to care, so you won't care either. Is that all there is? The sad answer is "yes"other than a bit of cloying sentimentality at the final curtain.
Mark Linn-Baker brings a natural comic persona to Doc Coleman. Linn-Baker has a variety of quizzical facial expressions which can often convey more, and more humorously, than mere words. Linn-Baker is very funny (and physically skillful) in a comic bit in which, already inebriated, he simultaneously imbibes a drink and smokes his first cigarette in years. Lauren Ashley Carter as his Walkman-addicted daughter P.B. (who helps her father hide Ryan from her already over-the-edge mother) entertains with her sharp and witty evocations of '80s dance steps. The balance of the cast perform well, but are limited by one note roles.
Director Joe Grifasi has well paced the performance, and the costumes of Susan Hilferty and straightforward lighting design of Rui Rita more than pass muster. The airy, light set is the work of Bob Dahlstrom.
Dated, misogynist jokes can be painful ("YOU'RE lonely. I live in a house surrounded by women. That's lonely."). Lines that may be funny in stand-up fail to stand up when spoken without context in a play ("Marriage is an institution designed by losers to make them feel like winners").
Black began to work on One Slight Hitch in 1981 when he was Associate Artistic Director of the Downstairs Theatre Bar at the West Bank Café which developed new one-act plays. It is likely that it was performed there. Thereafter, the play sat in Black's trunk until he began to revise and expand it about nine years ago with the assistance of director Joe Grifasi. The initial production of the revised One Slight Hitch was produced at Garry Marshall's Falcon Theatre (Los Angeles - 2005). It was then seen at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center (2006). Following further revisions, three related productions have been mounted over the past 16 months at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, ACT (A Contemporary Theatre) in Seattle, and now George Street. Clearly, One Slight Hitch holds a special place in Lewis Black's heart.
One Slight Hitch continues performances (Evenings: Tuesday - Saturday 8 pm/ Sunday (except 10/28) 7 pm/ Matinees: Thursday (2/25); Saturday and Sunday 2 pm) through 10/28 at the George Street Playhouse, 9 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, N.J. 08901; Box Office: 732-246-7717; Online: www.GSPonline.org.
One Slight Hitch by Lewis Black; directed by Joe Grifasi