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There Are No More Big Secrets

Heidi Schreck's uneven marital drama never fully sparks to life. logo
Adam Rothenberg, Christina Kirk, Gibson Frazier, and
Dagmara Dominczyk in There Are No More Big Secrets
(© Sandra Coudert)
Playwright Heidi Schreck infuses a naturalistic marital drama with mystical elements to uneven effect in There Are No More Big Secrets, now at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. And while Kip Fagan has staged the play handsomely and there are several performances of note, the piece never sparks to life with the chilling piquancy that one suspects Schreck might have intended.

Theatergoers are easily drawn into the play as Gabe (Adam Rothenberg) and Nina (Damara Dominczyk) banter with their hosts Maxine (Christina Kirk) and Charles (Gibson Frazier) over shots of vodka late at night in the country home on the Delaware River that belongs to Maxine's unseen bedridden mother. There's an intelligence and erudition to the dialogue, which is unsurprising since Gabe and Nina are reporters just returned from years of working in Russia and Maxine and Charles are both high school teachers. And there's also a palpable tension that underlies the couples' interaction, which is underscored with a superbly creepy soundscape by designer Daniel Kluger.

Sadly, as the couples become increasingly inebriated, their conversation becomes less and less interesting. Schreck accurately captures the sort of banal loopiness that comes when old friends get drunk together, but in doing so, the play develops a sophomoric tone that grates. And when supernatural elements begin to play a part not only in the conversation, but also the action (Nina's ability to astral project proves to be a key gimmick of the piece), Secrets becomes sadly unconvincing.

Theatergoers' credulity is further strained when the play moves forward three months in the second act. During this half of the play, the characters not only have to deal with the sad ramifications of their drunken evening together, but also the recent death of Maxine's mother, and the appearance of Gabe and Nina's precocious and perniciously snotty teenage daughter Lana (Nadia Alexander).

The performers navigate the intricate layers of Schreck's play with various degrees of success. Rothenberg and Kirk struggle as they play Gabe and Maxine, indicating the simmering emotions and regrets that the characters carry through physical and vocal gesturing.

More successful is Frazier, whose portrayal of the ineffectual Charles crackles with long-suppressed anger at Maxine and Gabe. He may have a smile for every situation, but it's a forced one that's tinged with bitterness over their collective past. And Dominczyk is remarkable as she manages to be both ethereal and hard-nosed, sometimes embodying these contradictory traits simultaneously.

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