Scott Barrow and Keira Naughton in Embraceable Me
(© Jon Kandel)
Scott Barrow and Keira Naughton in Embraceable Me
(© Jon Kandel)
Victor L. Cahn's two-hander Embraceable Me, now at Theatre Row's Kirk Theatre, is a play of modest charms. While it presents an occasionally entertaining story of an unlikely romance between Allison (Keira Naughton) and Edward (Scott Barrow), the characters are not sufficiently developed to make you care enough whether or not the couple stays together or breaks apart. Moreover, while the characters pay lip service to the idea that they are soul-mates, neither the writing nor the performances demonstrate this in a completely convincing manner.

As the play begins, Allison has come to tell Edward of her engagement to another man -- and possibly see if there is anything left of their own romance to make her change her mind. The story then unfolds in a kind of "He Said, She Said" manner, in which both characters narrate their version of the events that led up to their initial meeting, strong friendship, passionate romance, awkward breakup, and potential reconciliation.

The writing tends to stay on a fairly superficial level in describing the pair's loving connection, yet somewhat incompatible lifestyles. She's a go-getter who loves to meet new people and experience new things. He's happy with quiet nights at home and reading a good book. And while they experience (together or separately) job frustrations, health scares, and the aforementioned engagement, the stakes never really seem all that high.

Another problem with the production is that both actors tend to talk at the audience instead of forging an actual connection with them (which is particularly unforgivable in such an intimate theater as the Kirk). As directed by Eric Parness, the pair also seem to have trouble switching back and forth between direct address and more dialogue-based scenes.

Still, Barrow is particularly moving as Edward talks about the difficult relationship he has with his parents, while Naughton has her moments to shine, especially when showcasing a sullen resentment as she passive-aggressively decimates Edward's reputation at his job.