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Philadelphia by Tim Dunleavy

Any Given Monday
Theatre Exile

Also see Tim's review of Golden Age

Any Given Monday
Geneviève Perrier, Pete Pryor and
Joe Canuso

Bruce Graham's Any Given Monday is a delightfully brazen dark comedy about four people who face an unusual crisis. While it may not be nearly as deep or acerbic as the Wilma's recent comedy Becky Shaw, it still manages to be a lot of outrageous fun, thanks to a truckload of witty dialogue and a strong cast.

Lenny's wife Risa has just left him after 24 years of marriage. Lenny is so laid back that he can't get angry—he doesn't see any way to change Risa's mind, so why bother trying? Then Lenny's loutish best friend Mickey shows up at Lenny's suburban Philadelphia home to watch Monday Night Football ("Giants/Cowboys? No fun when you hate both teams," says the jittery Mickey). It turns out Mickey has a plan to reunite Lenny and Risa—a rather unorthodox plan which involves breaking the law. Lenny is horrified, and he's even more surprised when his sharp-tongued daughter Sarah finds out about the scheme. She's a college philosophy major, and she approves of Mickey's plan, mainly because she knows it'll make a great subject for her senior thesis.

Each character wrestles with his or her personal definitions of right and wrong, and the humor comes from how each person compromises in a different way. Graham raises a lot of interesting philosophical and theological questions over the course of the play, but he doesn't let any of these ideas get in the way of a good joke. Any Given Monday walks a fine line between high and low comedy (the Schindler's List joke was my favorite), and it usually gets the tone right. Only during act two, when Lenny and Risa get into a ponderous discussion about their sex life, do things go slightly awry. Fortunately, Graham soon remembers this is supposed to be funny, and gets things back on track.

Director Harriet Power stages it all very effectively; watch not only the familiar way the characters relate with each other but how they interact with an unseen TV set. Pete Pryor and Geneviève Perrier give terrific comic performances. They play very dissimilar characters—one's a loudmouthed bigot who works in the subway, the other an over-intellectualized student (one who belongs to "the religion of the month club" according to her mother)—but despite their diverse styles, they play off each other beautifully. Joe Canuso's Lenny seems a little too restrained at times compared to Pryor and Perrier, but he draws cheers from the audience when Lenny finally learns to stand up for himself. Catharine K. Slusar is Risa, an urbane event planner who finds she can cope with her clients' troubles better than with her own. Risa is the least developed character—an outsider in her own home—but Slusar is very appealing, making the most of some nice monologues.

Special notice should be made of Alison Roberts' costumes, which define the characters perfectly. The difference between Risa's elegant suit in act one and her disheveled robe in act two says as much about the unraveling of her character as her dialogue does.

Any Given Monday runs through February 28, 2010, and is presented by Theatre Exile at Plays & Players Theatre, 1714 Delancey Street, Philadelphia. Tickets are $15-$30 and are available by calling 215-218-4022 or online at www.theatreexile.org. This is a world premiere co-production with Act II Playhouse in Ambler, Pennsylvania, where Any Given Monday will play March 3-28.

Any Given Monday
By Bruce Graham
Directed by Harriet Power
Assistant Director: Noah Herman
Stage Manager... Debbie Lau
Set Designer... Dirk Durosette
Properties Designer... Amanda Hatch
Lighting Designer... James Leitner
Sound Designer/Composer... Mark Valenzuela
Costume Designer... Alison Roberts

Cast:
Lenny... Joe Canuso
Mickey... Pete Pryor
Risa... Catharine K. Slusar
Sarah... Geneviève Perrier


Photo: Paola Nogueras


-- Tim Dunleavy



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