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New Jersey by Bob Rendell

Place Setting Eavesdrops on a New Year's Eve Family Dinner

Place Setting
Guenia Lemos and Jack Canfora
Table Setting, the world premiere comedy-drama at New Jersey Rep, is set on December 31, 1999. The setting is the kitchen and dining room of the comfortable, middle class New Jersey home of Greg and his wife, Andrea. The acerbic Greg, who had ambitions to be a writer, is an ad writer. Less sharp, but pleasanter Andrea is a distractingly fussy housewife (I've heard that last word objected to by one who said that it wrongly describes one as being married to a house. If that is true, then it aptly describes Andrea).

Two other couples are with them for a family dinner prior to the expected arrival of additional guests. Greg's close, less acerbic brother Lenny is accompanied by his sharp-looking girlfriend Charlotte. Lenny identifies himself as being in "human resources," and Charlotte is an assistant editor. Andrea's sister Laura, an East Village, counter-culture type, has brought along her new boyfriend Richard, a pretentious, pompously assured purveyor of misinformation who identifies himself as an independent film director.

It appears apparent from this set-up that feuds and crises will comprise the entire play. And, in that respect, author Jack Canfora delivers that which is expected. The major crisis is that Charlotte is in the process of seducing the sorely tempted Greg into leaving Andrea. Matters are further complicated when Lenny proposes to Charlotte and takes her evasion of an answer as a "yes".

Table Setting boasts sharp, crisp, and richly humorous dialogue. Its story and recognizable characters engage our interest and emotions throughout (even though most of the characters are supremely selfish).

There is much food for thought here, largely concerning the complex nature of marital relationships. Author Canfora seems to suggest that settling for less than everything that one wants in a marriage is terribly sad, and that all marital issues need be confronted and worked out.

Author Jack Canfora portrays Greg with a boyish likeability. Canfora has given himself the lion's share of the play's barbed one liners (after all, Greg is an acerbic wise guy), and his comic timing and phrasing make the most of them. Carol Todd brings a great deal of honesty and nuance. Her Andrea is properly a mite annoying, yet gains sympathy for her determined actions. (The motivation for her launching a missile at Lenny is unclear and does undermine our sympathy for her. However, I think that it is the author who has some work to do here.)

David Bishins as Lenny runs the table believably, delivering a full range of emotional colors. Guenia Lemos performs with a easy and likeable sensuality. Given that Charlotte is most coldly selfish (to Greg – "Your brothers going to be betrayed and your wife broken, and it doesn't matter"), Lemos has to perform with tremendous appeal to enable us to accept Greg's temptation. Lemos has one especially clever line, "Your marriage is like a china shop, waiting for a bull." Kristen Moser has a likeable, slightly ditzy take on Laura, and Peter Macklin is deadpan funny as Richard. I couldn't quite identify his accent, but that may have been intentional for this phony filmmaker.

Director Evan Bergman has kept a lively pace, directed traffic well, and elicited fine performances all around. The richly detailed (with a fully loaded kitchen), and most attractive and playable set is by Jessica Parks. The excellent costumes by Patricia E. Doherty are especially effective in conveying the differing styles of the women and are flattering to boot.

Table Setting is neither unconventional nor particularly original, but it does provide witty, involving and thought provoking entertainment..

Place Setting continues performances through (Eves: Thurs, - Sat. 8 p.m./ Mats. Sat. 3 p.m. Sun. 2 p.m.) through June 24, 2007 at the New Jersey Repertory Company, Lumia Theatre , 179 Broadway, Long Branch, NJ 07740. Box Office: 732-229-3166; online: www.njrep.org.

Place Setting by Jack Canfora; directed by Evan Bergman

Cast
Andrea…………………….Carol Todd
Greg……………………Jack Canfora
Laura…………………..Kristen Moser
Richard………………..Peter Macklin
Lennie…………………..David Bishins
Charlotte………………..Guenia Lemos
 


Photo: SuzAnne Barabas


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- Bob Rendell



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