Also see Sarah's review of I Wanna Hold Your Hand: An Evening of One Acts
The play is tailor-made for small community theaters: single set, cast of only five, and it's funny. Like most contemporary comedies (post Neil Simon), it's on the darkish side, with the plot set into motion by an argument that leads to a fatality. The whole show takes place in an apartment in the East 50s, and it's very New York in the 1980s, when crime in the city was at its peak before it got cleaned up a bit in the '90s.
The four main characters all have classic New York jobs: Lois, a book editor, is married to Al, who is in advertising; Lois's best friend Jan, an "actress," is married to Ken, an architect. The interactions among them and the secrets that are revealed little by little are the crux of the play, and this is one of those where the less you know going in, the better. The play is pretty well constructed, and there are a few subtle hints dropped early on that bear fruit later.
But it would all be not much more than a sitcom script if not for a bravura set-piece of writing and acting in the second act, when an "inspector" shows up and everybody's well-rehearsed alibis get totally discombobulated. The timing has to be perfect for this to work, and the cast and director really pull it off.
Taunya Crilly takes the acting honors here, as she usually does, but everyone else is very good too: Stephen Zamora, Teresa Kizziah, Michael Girlamo and Celina Igwe. Comedy is not easy, but they make it look like a cinch. The sets and props at the Adobe have been remarkable in the past year or two, and this one is right up there with the best. Credit goes to Bob Byers, Rick Hassi, Patsy Rippo, John Hogan, Don Kaufman and Maureen Trujillo.
The play may be especially appealing to older audiences because it now has a nostalgic tinge about it, with references to Jane Fonda workouts and to Pan Am Airlines, and to a time when dialing 911 was new, and you could call an airline and a living person would immediately pick up on the other end and tell you if somebody had a reservation for a certain flight. People under thirty might think this is strictly fictional, and farfetched at that.
One last note: there is a reference to Albuquerque as a place to which you might move if you wanted to get out of New York City, because it's a city in which people still actually read books. I assumed this was a sop to the local audience, but the director and one of the actors confirm that this is directly from the play. Not one word has been altered. Good for us.
Cahoots by Rick Johnston is being presented at the Adobe Theater, 9813 Fourth Street NW in Albuquerque. Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 and Sundays at 2:00 through February 3, 2013. Info at adobetheater.org or 505-898-9222.