Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Mr. DiPietro is a prolific and very successful playwright, even if I am not always his biggest fan. I tend to find his work emotionally shallow, lacking in emotional honesty. Clever Little Lies is, at least for me, an exception to the rule. If Mr. DiPietro is often compared to Neil Simon, then this play is his Lost in Yonkers, where Neil Simon found maturity and new emotional depth that had often been missing from earlier works. While the comedy flies as it usually does in a DiPietro play, here there is something to ruminate about when it is over, specifically what is the cost of the little white lies that exist in families and friendship groups? In 80 short minutes, I found myself both entertained and provoked just a little. I like this play a lot.
Florida Studio's cast does a fine job of bringing the play to the stage, anchored by company favorite Rita Rehn as Alice, the matriarch, opposite Jon Shaver as husband and father Bill. Christopher M. Smith plays son Billy, who sparks all action, and Allyson Jean Malandra plays new mother Jane. Under the direction of Kate Alexander, they find the heart in these characters, so important in creating space for the comedy.
Scenic design by Isabel and Moria Curley-Clay is effective and also dazzling in detail. An important scene change from a locker room to a family living room provoked a large wave of "ahhs" from the Christmas Day audience. Costumes by Kathleen Geldard are just right for the upscale lifestyle of these characters, and lighting by Michael Pasquini keeps everything properly in focus. Clever Little Lies might not make strong technical demands, but the production is just about perfectly realized to allow Joe DiPietro's script to take flight.
Florida Studio Theatre presents Clever Little Lies through March 4, 2017, at the Keating Theater 1241 N. Palm Avenue, Sarasota. For tickets and performance information, please call the box office at (941) 366-9000 or visit floridastudiotheatre.org.
Cast (in alphabetical order):
Director: Kate Alexander