ALBANY — The age old drama of familial communication, expectations and understanding is approached with a decidedly modern twist in playwright Bob Morris’ amusing “Assisted Loving: Dating with My Dad,” now in a world premiere production at Capital Rep.
Successful, forty-something New York journalist David Katz (Brian Sills) has recently lost his mom to cancer. While visiting his mother’s grave with his dad, Sol (Barry Pearl), a few months after the funeral, David discovers that Sol is planning to ask his mother’s best friend, Edie (Cheryl Stern), to become his new wife.
Sideswiped by this news, David feels it is too soon for his dad to remarry, and puts the kibosh on Sol’s plans by telling him a lie — that Edie is unavailable as she is engaged to someone else. Crushed by this news, Sol’s anger turns quickly to dejection. To cheer his dad up — and perhaps to assuage his own guilt — David agrees to help Sol find someone else and signs his father up for computer dating. David will write his dad’s profile and David will screen the candidates. And David’s controlling nature of his father’s love life will cause some collateral damage — as Edie has become confused and hurt as to why Sol has left her hung out to dry.
Morris’ dialogue snaps with an authentic cadence in the dance of parent-child patter. Clever drops of humor are peppered in between the mild frustrations of the father-son dynamic, keeping the story familiar and funny.
Gordon Greenberg’s direction keeps the pace brisk and expertly highlights the character’s moments of reveal with just the right amount of emotional punch. Most effective is a scene between Edie and David late in act one where the history between them is dissected and the resulting scars are discussed with candor. Stern’s quiet unveiling of what lies behind Edie’s brassy broad approach to life is quiet and heartfelt allowing the audience confirmation of what they expected she drowns out with clanking baubles and husky laughter.
Morris has written a fine and entertaining play. The only stumble in the evening is that the character of David is played too pallid. Sol, Edie and David’s new love interest, Max (in a hysterical and completely engaging performance by Max Wolkowitz), state that David is a narcissistic, controlling and imperious person. And, yes, David’s actions can be described as such, but in action, they are muted, the volume set too low to create tension or unrest.
Just how frustrated is David by the fact he is alone and has no love life at the age of 40? How anxious, envious, or even angry is he that his father is able to start again on a search to find happiness? Where’s the heat that David is feeling that boils up to force his change of heart?
Granted, you can see that it’s there in Morris’ structure and dramatic setup in the script. But it is set at too low a simmer making David’s conflict cool, internal and remote. Sills is very appealing and quite good as David, bringing forward David’s ennui, empathy and humor — especially in his scenes with the warm and slightly goofy Pearl. But there’s a “want” missing in Greenberg’s approach to telling David’s story allowing the character to become more of a cipher, firmly relegating him to the back seat on this emotional road trip of father and son.
As usual, the design team has done a crackerjack job. Paul Tate dePoo III’s set design is clean and spare allowing the action to flow unimpeded and artfully frames Robert Denton’s cityscape and tropical projections.
And Tristan Raines’ clothing designs poke just the right amount of whimsy and humor into the evening without going over the top.
The opening night audience was in gales of laughter, proving that TheRep has a hit on their hands with Morris’ play. Well worth a visit.
‘Assisted Loving: Dating with My Dad’
WHERE: Capital Rep, 111 N. Pearl St., Albany
WHEN: Through Feb. 19
HOW MUCH: $20–$60
MORE INFO: 518-346-6204, www.capitalrep.org