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WASPs in Bed

This would-be romantic comedy adds up to less than the sum of its parts. logo
Jessica-Snow Wilson and Rick Gifford in WASPs in Bed
(© Bruce Glikas)
Trying to sort out who contributes what in a collaboration is always a tricky undertaking. Nevertheless, I'm going to throw caution to the winds and speculate on why WASPs in Bed, hawked as "a stinging romantic comedy," is such a skit-like, schizoid affair. According to the program's title page, this dubious play was written by Richard Willis Jr. and Nicola Behrman from a story by Raja G. Ogirala and Richard Willis, Jr., with additional material by Kieron Quirke and Paul Murray. My guess is that the sizeable committee was at cross-purposes, with the Willis-Behrman-Ogirala triumvirate plugging for one sort of piece while Quirke and Murray saw something else.

As the would-be comedy begins, Allan (David Alan Basche) and Betsy (Kelly Deadmon) have been -- as the title promises -- spending time together in bed. The frenetic pair are trying to revive their by-now-sexless, 10-year marriage with a vibrator and, if Allan can locate it, a bowl of whipped cream that they hope will help whip them into ecstasy. So, at first, it appears this will be a sex comedy and that Allan's impotence will be the catalyst for an adult titter fest.

However, by the time the action winds down -- with Betsy's best college friends, affianced Bobby (Rick Gifford) and loudly unaffianced Cal (Richard Short), plus their respective girlfriends Reese (Jessica-Snow Wilson) and Raina (Alysia Reiner) on the premises -- the play has become an argument for the incomparable rewards of marriage despite that institution's myriad faults. By the final blackout, it feels like two different plays have been fighting for dominance, with the warm-and-fuzzy one elbowing out the tickle-and-tease one.

WASPs in Bed doesn't add up to more than the sum of its parts, and director Lisa Marie Meller's production adds up to much less. Although Cialis-deprived Alan, intellectual-stimulation-starved Betsy, confused Bobby, naïve Reese, marriage-denigrating Cal, and superficially brittle Raina do a lot of talking about politics and many other subjects, they're hardly appealing company. Poor Reese, who's slept around but has chosen to remain abstinent for the man she wants to marry, is totally unbelievable. The rest are just tiresome as they scramble over Dustin O'Neill's architecturally confusing getaway cabin with its exposed loft. (That loft is a real problem in terms of the staging requirements of the script.)

As for the cast members populating the two on-stage beds (one traditional, one convertible) and jumping in and out of Deanna L. Berg's costumes, they soldier on like a platoon of called-up reservists, giving their all without quite seeming to know exactly what's expected of them. Since persons farther up the chain of command have to be held responsible for that, glad tidings to Basche, Deadmon, Gifford, and Short. Wilson, who will leave the company on September 17 to join Broadway's The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, does what she can in her impossible role. Special wishes for a speedy career recovery to gazelle-like Alysia Reiner, who only a few short weeks ago long-legged it across this same stage in the equally perplexing Anais Nin -- One of Her Lives.

Although co-author Behrman's bio doesn't indicate that she's related to the venerable 20th-century dramatist S.N. Behrman, her work here recalls the title and content of perhaps his most famous work, No Time for Comedy. The creative team behind WASPs in Bed may have had time for comedy, but they haven't had much luck at it.

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