Reviewed by Nancy Oliveri
In Deborah Zoe Lauffer’s frothy comedy Sirens, as produced by the Cider Mill Playhouse in Endicott, we learn what happens when one half of a couple tries to force the other half to feel something that he or she just doesn’t feel any more.
Sam Abrams, energetically played by Dean Robinson, has lost that loving feeling for the woman about whom he wrote a best-selling love song so many years before. In fact, Sam can’t feel much of anything any more and is desperate to regain that spark so he can write again.
While he has a good case of “been there, done that,” his wife, Rose Adelle, played by Ava Crump, unrelenting and nastily harps on at him about how much she still loooooves him, lo these many years later, and is none too happy when she finds out about his Facebook flirtations.
Crump plays up the scorned wife to the point where anyone in the house who had been in Rose’s shoes at one time or another absolutely “got it.” Not that Sam doesn’t deserve Rose’s anger, but that kind of vitriol, jealousy and pleading for attention doesn’t work and is usually beneath the person who expresses it. In Rose’s case, her strident whining results in her husband jumping ship to get away from her, an obvious but apt metaphor for your typical midlife defection.
I looked around the room and saw more than a few pursed lips and heads slowly nodding in recognition of Rose’s tirade. No man is worth that, ladies. I don’t care how long you’ve been married, but the play never shies away from the reality of Rose’s painful interpretation of what’s happened to her union with Sam. If that kind of anger can be funny, Crump has figured out how to convey that,. To her credit, playwright Lauffer obviously gets it, too.
Then there’s Sam, who is suffering from serious song-writer’s block. On a cruise to the Greek Islands, he hears a mythological Siren’s minor chords, calling him from somewhere in the briny beyond, and he cannot resist her. Sam takes the plunge, but miraculously survives. When he meets the Siren, she’s too busy playing solitaire on someone’s washed-up hand-held gaming device to give him what he wants, unless he wants to die immediately, which is his only other option besides succumbing to a slow, painful death. Funny, right? It should be, but there’s a hint of pathos for each of them that can’t be denied. She could be playing Candy Crush, but she’s playing Solitaire. Becky Baker, the Siren, has a lovely voice and is a fine actor with great stage presence.
In fact, all of the cast members do a very nice job with a pretty predictable script. Not that everyone wants to be challenged all the time in a playhouse. It’s called a play for a reason, I think. That said, the nearly packed house seemed to enjoy itself, particularly during Act II, which is worth staying for. That’s when the real fun begins, and we get everyone on stage at once — Sam, Rose Adelle, the Siren (who appears in that act as Sam’s Facebook “friend” Alison) and Jeff Tagliaferro as Richard Miller, the man who Rose left behind in their youth. Rose wastes no time looking him up after Sam’s departure, and to her surprise, Richard wants to see her, too.
One of the funniest scenes in the play is when Rose and Richard meet again for the first time while desperately trying to look sexy and debonair, respectively. It’s hard, but not impossible to do, for a variety of reasons, but I won’t spoil it.
IF YOU GO: You have several more opportunities to catch this lighthearted show that, in retrospect, has a few deeper layers. Sirens, directed by Penny Powell, will be performed at 8:15 p.m. every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday through May 17 and at 3 p.m. every Sunday through May 18. Scene/light/sound design is by Craig Saeger, with costumes by Jessica Pullis. The song, “Rose Adelle,” is composed and arranged by Matt Callahan, and the stage manager is Kirsten Knox. Call 748-7363 or visit http://www.cidermillplayhouse.com/ticket-info.htm.