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THEATER REVIEW : 'Fling' Has Some Age-Old Problems

March 24, 1994|T.H. McCULLOH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

IRVINE — Television sitcom-guru-turned-playwright Bernard Slade dealt with marital infidelity that worked out just dandy in his first play, "Same Time Next Year."

*

In "Fling," at Concordia University's Studio Theatre, he examines the other side of the coin, the possibility of infidelity that tempts but doesn't captivate happily married Michael Stratton.

Michael is a one-woman guy who has, in 18 years of marriage, never cheated on his wife, Kate. Even Kate finds that a bit curious.

Then Kate finds out that Michael slept with her maid-of-honor, Hilary, three days before their wedding, and 19 years after the fact she goes into a snit, leaving said maid-of-honor plenty of opportunity to prove that Michael is certainly capable of more than just lusting in his mind.

It's not a heavyweight play, but it does have a couple of moments of honest marital tenderness, and it has an unmistakable moral. In a program note, director Mark Manning frankly admits that moral was the reason he chose this play to direct.

The production is not as admirable as his intentions--for reasons he could not avoid.

Although his staging is interestingly choreographed on Rich Westphal's realistically comfortable New York apartment setting, though Manning has a cogent sense of comic timing and where the core of each scene is, and though he is sure in his highlighting of the play's emotional peaks, the age of his cast, with one exception, works against both his lucid direction and the inner life of the play.

Michael and Kate are in their late 30s; Hilary and her husband, Joe, are older. Although the young usually don't buy this fact, people do pick up baggage as they age. And that baggage is full of neat things: the million-and-one data bytes called experience.

It makes them vastly different than they were when they were in their teens. That baggage is necessary in a comedy of manners informed by two decades of marriage, raising children, being out in the real world making it all work.

The cast's notable exception is Derek Scally, who, in spite of his youth, has a good deal of the inner weight required by Michael's confusion and eventual resolve.

Scally had the same success playing Dr. Treves last fall in Concordia's production of "The Elephant Man." Somewhere he's picked up an attractive sense of maturity that enriches his acting.

Julie Canfield has moments that work as Hilary, but she hasn't been able to give her performance the solid foundation it needs.

Meredith McConnell has none of the maturity she should have as Kate. Her anger becomes pouting, her seductiveness becomes kittenish, her intellectual stability is nonexistent.

Jonathon Ruehs plays Hilary's husband like a high-school jock who has never grown up, but there's more to Joe than that.

As Hilary and Joe's 19-year-old son Grant, David Warmbier is in the right age range, as is Joanna Rosenberg as his 22-year-old friend, Stephanie. They acquit themselves well.

Having college actors stretch by playing older roles is not always a mistake. In this case, the writing and the moral sound empty without the deep, rich patina of maturity to fill them out.

* "Fling," Studio Theatre, Concordia University, 1530 Concordia West, Irvine. Friday & Saturday, 8 p.m., Sunday, 2 p.m. Ends Sunday. $5-$7. (714) 854-8002, ext. 314. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes. Derek Scally: Michael Stratton

Meredith McConnell: Kate Stratton

Julie Canfield: Hilary Braden

Jonathon Ruehs: Joe Braden

David Warmbier: Grant Braden

Joanna Rosenberg: Stephanie Newcombe

A Concordia University Theatre Department production of a comedy by Bernard Slade. Directed by Mark Manning. Scenic design/technical director: Rich Westphal. Lighting design: Rob Wolter. Sound design: Steve Hinman, David Rueter. Costume design: Lyndsay Kahler. Stage manager: Richard Manning Jr.

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