Play’s conflict emerges in cars

No, it’s not Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, the NPR talk show about fixing cars. Stageworks/H

“Car Talk”

WHERE: Stageworks/Hudson, 41 Cross St., Hudson

WHEN: Through Aug. 9

HOW MUCH: $29-$18

MORE INFO: 828-7843 or www.stageworkstheater.org

No it’s not Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, the NPR talk show about fixing cars. Stageworks/Hudson’s current production “Car Talk” is about talking not about but in cars. Playwright Lucile Lichtblau has captured that moment when a husband and wife get into a car to begin a road trip and the wife says, “I want to talk.”

The husband gets a terrified, trapped expression on his face, and you know you’re in for a long ride. But Lichtblau’s “talk” is substantive and, like NPR’s “Car Talk,” entertaining.

In truth, Lichtblau has an ear for the dialogue of average people trapped in not-so-average situations, and she carries her car metaphor with precision throughout the text.

Ed (Larry Sharp) and Millie (Bonnie Black) have an enduring, if occasionally troubled, marriage. They have just learned that their daughter, Rosalie (Melissa Macleod Herion), is a lesbian and that she has moved in with a taxidermist named Zoe (Abby Lee). Ed and Millie begin their journey to Vermont, where the young women live, to scope out the situation. It is both a literal and a figurative journey. Their talk turns, naturally, to what they may have done to turn their only child into a lesbian. Ed thinks it could have been the hunting trips he took Rosalie on.

Next we meet Rosalie and Zoe, a thoroughly engaging couple, who are on a quest to buy a case of toilet paper, because, explains Rosalie, it will make her mother feel more secure about Zoe and Rosalie’s relationship. We also learn that the couple has planned a wedding and the news must be broken to Rosalie’s parents. Lichtblau draws subtle parallels between the two couples and juggles their conflicts with sensitivity and humor.

Sharp is on top of the game as he initially shows himself to be judgmental and controlling, but as his character’s flaws become unearthed, the actor allows a touching vulnerability to shine through. Black plays Millie with a superb combination of comic energy and soulful strength. Herion gives Rosalie the right amount of frustration over the character’s inability to commit. But it is Lee’s solid performance as the lovely Zoe, who is most obviously comfortable in her own skin that anchors and connects the other characters.

Ably directed by Laura Margolis, the technical elements of the production must be mentioned. First and foremost is Brian Massman’s video design. A huge backdrop of passing scenery follows the cars as they motor along.

Most admirable is the fact that each turn and twist of the road portrayed by the actors is replicated by Massman’s video.

Ben Heyman’s sound design is never intrusive but always indicative of the action down to the soft click of windshield wipers as the car travels in a rainstorm. Frank Den Danto III creates everything from the headlights of oncoming cars in some night scenes, to a lovely star spangled night on “the roof of the world.”

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts, News

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