nytheatre.com review by Lynn Marie Macy
February 4, 2011
Edie and Alan King have found their “dream home” in Apple Cove, a stringently regulated and exclusive gated community. The “happy” newlyweds embark on building a new life. Unfortunately their dream reveals itself more of a nightmare—beginning with Edie’s overbearing father Gary, who lives next door and is president of the homeowners association. He's also the writer of the manual of “rules” that is given a place of prominence in their new home and often referred to in all manner of situations. Additionally, there is Gary’s hilariously hostile wife Mary, Edie’s nemesis from school days gone by. And dropped into this bubbling mix is Duke, the mysterious, attractive and über-capable security guard.
Apple Cove is Lynn Rosen’s intriguing and humorous take on man vs. nature, order vs. chaos. Her script is part sitcom, part absurdist comedy, and part madcap farce, and though the show makes for an entertaining night out, in the final evaluation the sum of its parts may prove a bit less than satisfying.
It seems Apple Cove was built over Bear Swamp, which was drained and tamed by Gary and his cohorts. And yet the swamp and all its natural elements are only lying in wait as another player in this unfolding contemporary fairy tale. Initially each of Rosen’s characters outwardly conforms and plays his or her designated role to the hilt, but inwardly they all harbor secret fears and longings. When Edie discovers a beautiful but forbidden rose in her garden, it is a great temptation, one that if she succumbs to it, will crack the literal foundation of all their lives. If the rules are not obeyed, chaos will ensue resulting in exile from “paradise.” But here the line between paradise and purgatory is a bit blurred. Through Edie’s relationship with Duke she experiences an awakening of sorts and gradually discovers that the world of Apple Cove is not the sanctuary she hoped it would be, as her husband Alan slowly comes unhinged via his fervent attempts to conform to his father-in-law Gary’s unyielding life view.
Director Giovanna Sardelli has brought together the perfect cast. Allison Mack as Edie is winning and whimsical. Erin Gann as her “do-gooder” husband Alan is a bundle of neurotic energy. Edie’s father Gary is played by Paul Carlin as quite a convincing corporate generalissimo obsessed with controlling everyone and everything around him. Kathy Searle as Mary is very funny in her sinking mothering and pet-owning skills (her dogs all run away) as her competition with Edie becomes her primary focus. And Dion Mucciacito as the smoldering Duke steals every scene he crashes or tumbles into.
Scott Bradley’s set is highly creative and, supported by Japhy Weideman’s lights, serves the play brilliantly. Amy Clark’s costumes work well and assist in illuminating this unsettling alternate universe.
Sardelli’s direction is well paced and inventive. She keeps her actors moving but is somewhat hampered by Rosen’s slightly overlong script which would benefit from trimming. Particularly in the opening scenes which feel too repetitive. The piece truly springs to life with the entrance of Duke the security guard (which may certainly be the point—but the audience is more than ready for his arrival). And while Rosen’s script calls for a certain heightened comedic style, Sardelli has guided the characters in this production a bit over the top. Unfortunately, more often than not they come across as two-dimensional. In the end, without the necessary emotional grounding or even a small connection to real danger, it becomes difficult to sympathize with cartoons and the play loses some of its subtlety and depth.
But there is much that is very good about this Apple Cove and as a world premiere, I would encourage this multi-talented team to continue developing this promising new script.