Victor L. Cahn’s new play Embraceable Me at Theatre Row’s Kirk Theatre is attempting to be a tennis match of the sexes where Allison (Keira Naughton) is your egocentric, focused, determined woman, whilst Edward (Scott Barrow) is shy, mousy, and amazing at what he does, which Allison uses to further herself during college and ever after. You wouldn’t think these two would develop a romance together, but they do. And what could have been a flavorful “who would have thought” love story, never catches our fancy due to the underdevelopment of these characters. There is no indication as to why these two belong together.
The play is a retelling, starting with Allison’s visit to Edward’s rural home to make the announcement that she is engaged. Or – as we learn later and easily predict – rather she is there to give him another chance and give herself one more excuse to call off the engagement and rekindle the possibility of being back together with “the one.” The audience is addressed constantly, a device Cahn utilizes to move the story along which only creates distortion, losing our interest when moments are about to happen.
The most Embraceable aspect of this production is Scott Barrow’s thoughtful performance; he gives Edward a fantastic balance of wit, naïveté and maturity as we watch him evolve from a college kid to a grown man who learns to embrace his copy editing abilities and enjoys a tranquil life by himself (albeit one he would toss out the window for a moment with Allison).
Keira Naughton proves to be a seasoned actress, but her calculated, put-together (but only on the surface: the character has a disorganized home and unbalanced checkbook), cold portrayal of Allison does not exceed the character’s potential complexities, but rather simply suffices the written word.
Director Eric Parness does a good job at creating some sense of place and tension in his staging, which is unfortunately obstructed by the direct address in the text. Parness also helms a talented design team, with set by Sarah B. Brown, costumes by Sidney Shannon, lighting by Carolyn Wong and sound by Nick Moore.
Although in this tennis game the players are mostly serving at the audience, when they are involved with each other, the seasoned cast and Cahn’s wit make for an entertaining match.
Rachel Reiner Productions LLC present
Victor L. Cahn’s
Oct 23-Nov 14, 2009
The Kirk Theatre at Theatre Row
Tickets are $35.00 and are available by calling 212-279-4200, or visiting www.ticketcentral.com.
The Kirk Theatre at Theatre Row | 410 W 42nd Street | Manhattan