Book & Lyrics by Joe DiPietro
Music by Jimmy Rogers
Directed by Kate Alexander
Florida Studio Theatre's Keating Mainstage
1241 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota, 941-355-9000
November 20, 2010 to January 8, 2011

Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker

The first appearance at Florida Studio Theatre ten years ago of Joe DiPietro's now-international hit failed to thrill me. I thought it a rather cutesy parade of stereotypes, particularly of women, involved in dating to marriage  and afterward. Its current revival at FST, though, is thoroughly likeable, with a perfect cast of four. They fill the shiny panel-framed stage mostly with fun, sometimes with pathos, to just the right music from behind the darker back scrim. What's changed  now? Most important is the director. Known for her ability to bring out the best in actresses, Kate Alexander  lives up to that reputation here. Also as an educator who emphasizes presenting truth in theatre, she helps the cast find what conforms to reality in the personae they assume and their situations. After all, most "types" are in part or sprang from something realistic. So, though surtitles announce the series of vignettes that comprise the show, we don't need help to recognize some of the characters in them.
"Always the Bridesmaid"  has sophisticated brunette Stacey Harris complaining in the latest of many never-to-be-used-again  dresses she abhors, since she assists at but never stars in myriad weddings. After a game of "Tennis" that she's again won, diminutive blond Stacey Scotte ponders why this fourth date with (seemingly agile) Randy Glass' loser hasn't led to romance. "The Lasagne  Incident" has taller Gil Brady, with his take-charge look,  as a father joining the others at a dinner where parents expect their son (Glass) and the gal he's been dating two years to announce their formal engagement.  When instead he says they're breaking up, we want to join maternal Scotte in how she handles dinner and proposed gift. There's an "accelerated" first date that acts out matters usually delayed, the excitement  of a woman (and surprising others) when a man actually calls as promised, a movie date that the guy didn't realize would be for a chick flick, an anguished  preparation for infrequent sex by a married couple with kids. For "The Family That Drives Together" the four cleverly simulate a rocky ride in well coordinated office chairs. In a late segment, there's a newly divorced woman (Harris, with tears in her eyes) making a computer dating video. But romance blossoms afresh for an elderly widow and widower who meet at a funeral.
Seemingly without stress, the performers execute DJ Gray's simple choreography and assume different roles quickly. Ditto for changes of Sara Hinkley's well designed costumes. The technical staff makes the scene shifts look easy, despite the number of required moves of props. Music Director is John Franceschina. Bob Phillips is responsible for the set; David Upton, lighting; Eric Stahlhammer. The production, with a l5 minute intermission, lasts 2 hours, 20 minutes.      


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