Reviewed by Stephen Radosh
Reviewed by Stephen Radosh
CV Rep’s final offering of the season is 2 ACROSS, a charming and frequently laugh out loud funny one act play by Jerry Mayer. Mr. Mayer has a background as a sitcom writer on many hit TV shows including M*A*S*H*, ALL IN THE FAMILY, and THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW. His TV experience does show which, in this case, is not in any way a negative. The play has the feel of a well written sitcom with snappy dialogue delivered by characters placed into a slightly contrived but still believable situation.
The setting is a train car on San Francisco’s BART system. It’s 4:30 A.M. and as the play begins we meet Janet (Andrea Gwynnel), the sole passenger on the car, who is crying. We later learn that her tears are the result of an unsuccessful attempt at the San Francisco Airport to keep her son from flying off to join the Marines. Her privacy is short-lived as Josh (Joel Bryant) just makes it into the car as the doors close behind him. Janet has occupied herself by doing the Saturday New York Times crossword puzzle. Josh settles in and starts doing the same puzzle but does not focus on the puzzle for long. He begins a conversation with Janet, who reluctantly responds and then tries to put the conversation to an end. Josh, on the other hand, ignores her attempt to stop the small talk and continues on in a somewhat goofy but warm and likeable style. At first Janet’s responses are harsh and cold. But as Josh turns on the charm while continuing to try and engage Janet in conversation, she begins, in true rom-com style, to soften and open up. It’s not really a spoiler to say that after a few twists and turns in the plot, a real connection is made and the future seems hopeful for both of them.
Director Deborah Harmon keeps the 90 minute play moving at a perfect pace for this comedy, allowing for the frequent laughs to flourish as well as the characters' moments of resolution and self-introspection.
In the hands of a lesser actor, Josh could easily become irritating and totally unsympathetic. But Joel Bryant makes him both funny and endearing. Willing to lay on the self-deprecating humor and turn on the boyish charm, his Josh is insecure (he does crosswords with a pencil and eraser), likeable and someone for whom the audience is rooting.
Similarly, Andrea Gwynnel’s skill as an actress lets us see that Janet’s initial iciness and barbs freely hurled at Josh are just a protective coating. Underneath is an intelligent (she does crossword puzzles in ink), loving and somewhat insecure woman. Although they are opposites in many ways (he is Jewish, she is Catholic; she is a psychologist, he is unemployed), they are quickly attracted to each other; an attraction that deepens as the play progresses towards its audience pleasing conclusion. Ms. Gwynnel gives us a well-developed character and never lets Janet become harsh, bitchy or clichéd.
Jimmy Cuomo’s set is spot on. Clean, simple and beautifully crafted, Mr. Cuomo, as always, transforms the CV Rep’s open space with a slick and sleek design which convincingly evokes the inside of a BART SYSTEM train car. Moira Wilkie Whitaker’s excellent lighting design is the perfect complement to Mr. Cuomo’s set.
Guaranteed to put a smile on the face of every audience member, 2 ACROSS runs until May 20, 2018. For further information and to order tickets visit www.cvrep.org. Photos courtesy of Greg Brunton.