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The Cascade Falls

Adam Michael Cohen's darkly comic play, which begins with two strangers hooking up at a mutual friend's funeral, is full of quirky humor. logo
Lucas Beck, Samuel Whitten, and Kirsten Scoles
in The Cascade Falls
(© Jeff Doutre)
As the lights rise on The Cascade Falls, at the Abingdon Theatre, a man and woman are copulating in a casket. This hilarious scene is the perfect opening for Adam Michael Cohen's darkly comic, 95-minute play, which has been well directed by Ryan Hemphill.

Peter (Lucas Beck) and Angie (Kirsten Scoles) meet at the funeral of their mutual friend, Will (Samuel Whitten). Peter was a friend of the deceased back in their boarding school days, while Angie was a more recent acquaintance. The two hit it off immediately and are soon living together. But as secrets from their pasts begin to emerge, it becomes obvious that both knew Will better than they initially admit -- and carry some amount of guilt for his violent suicide.

Individual encounters with men whom remind them of Will (both played by Whitten) are the catalysts for some of these revelations. Peter hangs out at a strip club with one of his co-workers, and in a moment both disorienting and vibrantly theatrical, the lights shift, the background music stops, and the audience is treated to a flashback that fills in some of the back story of Peter and Will's friendship. Similarly, Angie's interactions with one of her art students are also interrupted by flashbacks that detail her relationship with Will.

Beck is both charming and confident as Peter. He is able to convey the character's substance-abusing tendencies without overplaying them. Scoles' Angie has a surface brashness and aggression that belies a more vulnerable and insecure interior. The two actors have great chemistry together, making their characters' immediate connection believable.

Whitten's three roles are somewhat underwritten; the character of Will, in particular, needs to be fleshed out, given his importance to the overall story. While we're told plenty of information about him, the audience is never really shown what makes him tick and why he reacts to things in the way that he does. Still, Whitten does well with what he has, and is particularly adorable as the nervously awkward art student.

A casket is the centerpiece of the production's set (scenic and costume consultation is by David Henderson), which also doubles as a bar when the lid is closed. Jennifer Rathbone's lighting helps to set the tone for the different scenes, and Ian Merrigan does a nice job with the fight choreography in such a tight space, where the audience is seated extremely close to the play's action.

Cohen's dialogue is often quite funny, although some of the exposition in the flashbacks is doled out a little too heavy handedly. The play's climax is also a bit forced, although the quirky humor of the writing helps to smooth out its rough edges, and the final scene restores the playful tone of the piece.

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