Sunday, July 13, 2014

Lovelier The Second Time Around

Sometimes a play just hits its audience right where it should, no matter how young or old it is, no matter how dated the theme, and no matter many times we've heard the jokes before. This is the case with the Coach House Players' production of The Second Time Around, a comedy by Henry Denker that first ran on Broadway in 1977.

The story concerns an older couple who fall in love and decide to live together without benefit of marriage over their families' objections. A problem long ago solved, right? I went into the theater on the second night of the show wondering if it would be possible to sustain dramatic tension over the situation for anything like two hours.

Thanks to a motley assortment of neurotic and endearing characters, it worked. The audience smiled, laughed, guffawed and practically howled and some of the one-liners, and the story wound up nicely in the hands of the two leads, who had held our interest the whole time. Rich Wronkoski as Samuel and Barbara Surowitz as Laura won us over early and kept us wondering how they had spawned such a brood of misfits. With perfect timing and ease onstage, they both carried off the difficulties of making such an unlikely story plausible today, even if the play is set in the distant past. The chemistry and warmth between them made us care and hope the two would pull off the old-fashioned happily-ever-after bit. They seemed like a couple--and one you'd want to know.

Their offspring, the dyspeptic Mike (or Mickey, as his mother keeps calling him), and Cynthia, played by Rob Rowe and Bernadette Pikul, provide tension and comedy at the same time. Mike's nervous stomach is a source of laughs and Cynthia's controlling insistence that her mother's memory is somehow being desecrated provide the crux of conflict in what should be a natural turn of events. Clever dialogue and solid performances make the audience accept the crisis and care about the reactions of these cartoonish people. Complicating the scene are their spouses, Mike's wife Eleanor (played with likable detestibility by Rachel Davis) and Cynthia's psychiatrist husband Arthur, played by Adam Alberts as a man in serious need of therapy as he tries to heal everybody he meets. Samuel's grandson and his girlfriend--Tom Roberts and Jocelyn Witkowski--provide comic points and Roberts has the best line in the play, summing up the conflict neatly toward the evening's end.

The play is well directed by John Thayer, with the performances evenly paced and balanced. A minor carp--I could have done with more outlandish 1970s costumes and hairdos in order to reinforce the time period. The Jimmy Carter joke didn't go over, and with the ocean of time between this play's first production and this one, it's understandable why. If Ms. Davis' character had been aping Carter's toothy grin all along it might have worked--otherwise I think the line could have been cut. 

Without resorting to a spoiler, I will say that the last moments of the play are warm and wonderful (Note: anytime a little Frank Sinatra comes on, this critic turns to butter), and at the performance I attended an audible "Aww..." emanated from the audience.

The Second Time Around will be performed for its final time at the theater at 12 Augusta Street, Kingston, this afternoon at 2.


  1. Can't wait to see it! This is a great cast and a terrific director.

  2. You'll laugh a lot and leave the theater feeling good!