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A Marriage of Convenience

Plodding pacing and thinly written characters blunt the effectiveness of this political comedy. logo
Richard Brundage, Tara Gadomski and Todd Reichart
in A Marriage Of Convenience
Since it's an election year, theatergoers are bound to be seeing numerous political comedies and satires crop up on a regular basis. Hopefully, most of them will be more successful than writer/director Norman Beim's A Marriage of Convenience, currently at the Turtle's Shell Theater. While the show has the admirable aim of skewering notions of sex, sexuality, marriage, and political bedfellows, the plodding pacing and thinly written characters blunt the work's effectiveness.

Gary Vincent (Todd Reichart) is a successful author who plans to run for the Senate. He's also gay. Advised by his friend and campaign manager Miles McKenzie (Richard Brundage) that he needs a wife to secure the support of Labor leader Patrick Bliss (Bernard Burlew), he arranges a "marriage of convenience" to his lesbian secretary Diane (Tara Gadomski). As it turns out, however, neither of the pair's sexualities are as completely set as they may have thought.

The style of the play indicates that Beim is trying for a kind of Shavian comedy, but it's third-rate Shaw at best. Some of his lines are vaguely amusing, but most of the jokes fall flat due to poor comic timing, a two-dimensionality to the characters, and a tone that feels more soap opera than send-up. There are also a lot of missing connections between the cast members. For example, Gary keeps saying things like "I will not be interrupted," when none of the characters he's interacting with remotely look like they might be about to interrupt him.

Reichart spends the majority of the play with a permanent smirk on his lips. For the audience to have any sympathy for him at all, Gary has to have a charismatic charm, but the actor's interpretation just comes across as smarmy. Gadomski is rather stiff as Diane, and indicates her intentions in too broad a manner. Brundage's Miles is soft-spoken, but somewhat lacking in personality. Burlew is the only one of the performers to effectively convey a hint of fire, but even he sometimes falters. Rounding out the cast is Meghan Ritchie as Bliss's daughter Bridget, who comes to work for Gary and causes a few more complications.

Curiously, the exact time period of the play is never explicitly stated, but there are several clues that indicate it is set in the early 1970s. Even though the action takes place in Gary's study, there are no traces or mentions of computers, Blackberries, or cell phones which would be de rigueur in this day and age for political campaigning. Indeed, the phone that does exist on the set looks remarkably dated. The clincher, however, is the mention of a gay rights bill being pushed forward by the Gay Liberation Front, an organization that only existed from 1969-1972. Why Beim is being so coy about the time period is unclear, but being more forthcoming about it would probably help make the play seem less out of touch with the 21st-century political scene.

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