In photo: From left, Jake Goodman as Josh, James Lloyd Reynolds as Richard and Michael McCorry Rose as David in the Capital Repertory Theatre production of “Your Best One."
As we were leaving theREP on Tuesday night, I heard an audience member say to his companion, “I liked the short scenes.”
She replied, “I liked the play. The short scenes.”
They were discussing Meridith Friedman’s “Your Best One,” the middle play of a trilogy about a California family, the Hoffmans.
I did not like the short scenes. There are seven in the 45-minute first act and six in the 37-minute second act. (Frankly, I’m not sure why there is an intermission.)
Just when something is about to happen, when two or three people have a shot at creating a moment which then blossoms in front of us, the lights go off and we’re on to the next moment. Such stopping and starting limits forward motion; more important, making something of the scene requires more telling than showing. There’s a lot of mentioning of things that have already occurred and less occurring in the moment.
Is the material interesting? Yes, after a fashion. Richard (James Lloyd Reynolds), a physician, appears, in medias res, in the kitchen of his former partner, David (Michael McCorry Rose), a 45-year-old man with whom he broke up eight years before. The reason? Problems with commitment, chief among them Richard’s cold feet after the couple had decided to adopt.
David went ahead with the adoption alone, and now Josh (Jake Goodman) is 15.
Richard’s return is not arbitrary, however; he has discovered that David has pancreatic cancer. Might he be able to help?
Richard’s life is also complicated by the decline of his elderly father, Oscar (Lenny Wolpe), and the marriage woes of his sister, Laura (Kate Wetherhead).
While there are a lot of possibilities for grimness, the play is leavened with humor, wry comments that can make an audience laugh but do little to make the interactions on stage credible. In real life people laugh when someone says something funny; here, not so much.
The production looks terrific, thanks to Caite Hevner’s two-level set and rear-wall projections that efficiently shift locales, complemented by Rob Denton’s lighting design. Alejo Vietti’s contemporary costumes aptly evoke the personalities of the characters --- professional Richard, for example, is always in a fitted suit, and Laura’s outfits are --- well, outfits.
The five actors work hard to bring off each scene, and director Gordon Greenberg helps them shape the brief interactions and provide some pleasure.
Goodman’s Josh is more teenage bounce than bravado, and --- maybe a bit unbelievably --- rather more sanguine about Richard’s appearance than a kid might otherwise be. But Goodman is a local theater treasure for good reason.
In Laura’s first scene, we see her on two phones simultaneously, emblematic of her busy mind. Wetherhead gives dimension to Laura, the less favored child growing up, thus always trying to be all things to a lot of people.
Wolpe is amusing and poignant, not shying away from old-Jewish-man-from-NYC tropes yet somehow adding depth to them. His voice, too, is conversational in volume, but we never miss a word.
Despite some tendency to speak too loudly, Reynolds and Rose work well together throughout, doing a dance that relies on old steps even as they begin to realize that new moves are required. If the last scene is not a surprise, the relaxed interaction between the two is, nevertheless, satisfying and presages the tone of what might occur in the third installment of the trilogy.
There may be a rich story here, but the structure of the play vitiates its impact: nothing seems to be at stake long enough to care about.
'Your Best One'
WHERE: Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 N. Peart St., Albany
WHEN: Through Feb. 9
HOW MUCH: $57-$22
MORE INFO: 518.445.7469, or capitalrep.org