Theater review: World premiere of ‘Secret Hour’ a gem at Cap Rep

Joshua David Robinson, Marina Shay and Whit K. Lee, left to right, share the stage in Jenny Stafford’s new play, “Secret Hour,”  at the Capital Repertory Theatre. (Courtesy Capital Rep)

Joshua David Robinson, Marina Shay and Whit K. Lee, left to right, share the stage in Jenny Stafford’s new play, “Secret Hour,”  at the Capital Repertory Theatre. (Courtesy Capital Rep)

ALBANY — Married, thirtysomething couple Kate (Marina Shay), an intro to ethics professor at a local university, and her husband, Ben (Joshua David Robinson), an out of work software engineer now repairing computers at Best Buy, seem to be living a fairly stable life. But there are rumblings of trouble. Ben, not completely fulfilled by his present job, is occupying his emptiness by planning for the wished for arrival of a baby. But Kate and Ben are having issues with conceiving. And more importantly, both are having trouble telling each other the truth. In an ironic game they have named the “secret hour,” the couple plays a brief, flirty, diversion by revealing to each other an actual embarrassing esoteric truth.

Eavesdropping on everything — truth and lies — is the quirky handyman/life coach/amateur ornithologist Leaf (Whit K. Lee), who spends a great deal of his time fixing up their home, a home which appears to need little if any repair and looks to have been featured in the last issue of Architectural Digest. Apparently, looks can be deceiving.

Things come to a boil when Kate, who has been on a clear and steady track to tenure, instead drives into a tree and ends up in the hospital. The lies being lived begin to unravel, and we encounter an unplanned “secret hour.”

Under the astute and able direction of Margaret E. Hall, Jenny Stafford’s “Secret Hour” is being given a top-notch production for its world premiere at Capital Rep. Winner of the 2021 NEXT ACT! New Play Summit Festival, the play is a gem. A gem in need of a bit of a polish, but a gem none the less.

While Stafford crafts a solid story and characters that are intriguing and hold interest, some of the stakes the characters face seem oddly weightless, allowing the audience to solve the couple’s dilemma long before the characters do.

Stafford’s dialogue is fiery and incredibly smart, peppered with genuine humor, humanity and honest emotion. The production also benefits from talented cast. Shay is wonderful as the ethically crippled professor. And she shines in the lecture scenes with a mad juxtaposition of control and wavering as an academic on the verge of a self realization in her packed lecture hall.

Ben’s pain of betrayal is given quiet gravity by Robinson and is equally as moving when he pleads his case to explain away his deceptions. Lee’s Leaf is an impish silly cipher. Grabbing all the charm that Stafford poured into the role, Lee makes it work with such a gentle ease you cannot help but be charmed.

On the design end, the show is a stunner. David McQuillen Robertson’s handsome set impresses. So does Travis McHale’s artful and warm lighting. Andrea Adamczyk’s well-appointed and appropriate costumes and Julian Evans’ sound design round out a technical triumph

“Secret Hour” is just a bit more than that — 90 minutes, no intermission. Funny, smart and engaging. Highly recommended.

‘Secret Hour’

WHERE: Capital Repertory Theatre, Albany
WHEN: Through Feb. 19
HOW MUCH: $27 – $62
MORE INFO: 518-346-6204,

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts

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