The play, which spans the years 1890 to 1925, covers Michael and Agnes (Todd Weeks and Jessica Dickey) from being virginal newlyweds through advancing into still-vigorous middle age. And along they way, this everycouple bicker virtually non-stop with a consistent shrillness.
Among the bones of Michael and Agnes' constant contentions are worries about the imminent arrival of a first-born, Michael's extra-marital dalliance, first-born son Robert's possible bourbon-drinking habit, and Agnes' desire to quit the marriage in a paroxysm of wishful independence. In the final scenelet, when they're moving from their empty nest, they argue over whether to leave for the new owners a pillow preaching the legend "God is Love." Agnes insists it should remain under the covers on the fourposter bed that's served as the emblem of their blemished union -- the continuation of which no audience member will ever have doubted.
In imagining Michael and Agnes, de Hartog -- ultimately a sentimentalist -- hasn't made them especially likable. Agnes is a recognizable coping wife and mother but is short on other appealing personality traits. Her 1913 suffragist moment is peculiarly tepid. Michael comes across as what Agnes calls him: "a pompous ass." A budding writer early on, he eventually produces a best-seller. Although Weeks and Dickey remain energetic and committed throughout the piece, he only finds and imparts Michael's sympathetic attributes in the more subdued final act, and she -- though visually alluring -- undercuts Agnes by pitching her voice a touch too high.
Set designer Sandra Goldmark finds a few occasions to spruce up the couple's bedroom. Costume designer Theresa Squire does nicely by Agnes' wardrobe and has a few jokes on Michael's pompous-ass ensembles, notably a top hat that never quite sits with any dash. Best of all, sound designer Jill BC DuBoff has shuffled through grainy disks from the 35-year period under examination and has retrieved items like a rendition of "Cuddle Up a Little Closer" from the 1908 Otto Harbach-Karl Hoschna-Charles Dickson tuner, Three Twins. Actually, it's the closest thing most patrons will want to cuddle up to in this bland revival.