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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

The Book Club Play

The Book Club Play
Connan Morrissey and Lise Bruneau
During its season of literary adaptations, Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland, is venturing into new works with The Book Club Play. This affectionate yet satiric look at people who love to read is enjoyable on a sitcom level but lacks depth; an engaging cast still makes it fun to watch.

Playwright Karen Zacarías has structured the play in the form of a documentary following several months in the life of a supposedly representative book club. The founders are Ana (Lise Bruneau), who writes for a local newspaper, and Will (Sasha Olinick), her first college boyfriend and still a close friend. Rob (Jason Paul Field), Will's college roommate and now Ana's husband, is a member of the club, although he admittedly is not much of a reader, and Ana's co-worker Jen (Connan Morrissey) makes four.

Zacarías is at her strongest plumbing the weak points in the relationships between people, the undercurrents that simmer as the group discusses Moby Dick  or The Count of Monte Cristo. Ana has an effortlessly superior way about her; she only befriends Jen when she can do it from a position of strength. Will is effusive except when Ana fights him over the direction of the group; meanwhile, Rob tends to hang back.

The action of the play comes from the introduction of new members into this small, enclosed world. Ana and Jen decide to expand the group's horizons by inviting the younger African-American Lily (Erika Rose) to join, and they are surprised when she selects War and Peace as her first choice rather than a book by Langston Hughes or Zora Neale Hurston. The other new member, Jen's neighbor Alex (Matthew Detmer), is more problematic: smart-alecky, inclined to make jokes at everyone else's expense, and generally disruptive. While director Nick Olcott has done a fine job with all six actors, Detmer makes the most of his flashy role.

The other standout is Sarah Marshall, who portrays a succession of "talking heads" in the supposed documentary. Marshall, always quirky and uninhibited, here gets the chance to be a chameleon, stepping into roles as different as a buttoned-up literary expert, a tough-talking male former Secret Service agent, and a soulful aspiring novelist.

Round House Theatre
The Book Club Play
February 6th - March 2nd
By Karen Zacarķas
Ana: Lise Bruneau
Lily: Erika Rose
Will: Sasha Olinick
Rob: Jason Paul Field
Jen: Connan Morrissey
Alex: Matthew Detmer
Interviewees: Sarah Marshall
Directed by Nick Olcott
4545 East-West Highway
Bethesda, MD

Ticket Information: 240-644-1100 or www.roundhousetheatre.org


Photo: Danisha Crosby


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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