Reviewed by Judy Richter
Most Bay Area theatergoers know Will Marchetti as an accomplished actor, but in recent years he has been developing another talent, playwriting. His latest foray into writing, "Lil' Darlin'," is receiving its world premiere from San Jose Stage Company under the direction of Ken Sonkin.
This farce is set in the present in the comfortable living room and kitchen (homey set by John Harrison York with lighting by Michael Palumbo) of a San Francisco home occupied by Doc and Lila Stevens (Robert Ernst and Frances Lee McCain) along with their 18-year-old daughter, Nicki (Mia Antonelli). Married for 30 years, Doc and Lila are eating dessert while the loquacious Doc talks about vacation possibilities. Lila answers him in short words, seemingly agreeing with him while infusing her responses with thinly veiled sarcasm. Soon the play's central conflict arises: Lila has discovered that Doc has been having an affair and walks out on him, joined by Nicki.
The distraught Doc invites his best friend and fellow real estate salesman, Joe Levin (Joe Bellan), to come over for beer and conversation, but Joe takes advantage of Lila's absence by announcing that he's gay and insisting on spending the night on the sofa bed, reluctantly joined by Doc. The second act takes place a week later with Joe still at Doc's house and Doc in a deepening funk. The scene quickly becomes complicated as Lila and Nicki arrive unexpectedly, soon followed by Lila's jargon-spouting guru, Ram Bubba (William Ontiveros); Doc's frumpy girlfriend, Frieda Mayerling Warrin (Judith Miller); and Lila's feisty mother, Doris Lovecraft (Cec Levinson). The action becomes farcical and dialogue sillier as each of these eccentric characters gets into the act and the conversation focuses on Doc's "lil' traveler," his small penis.
Ernst is a bit too animated as Doc during the early scenes, but McCain skillfully conveys Lila's calm but sarcastic determination. The rest of the actors also are well suited for their roles, with Antonelli's Nicki showing more common sense than the adults around her. Michele Wynne's costumes help to define the characters.
"Lil' Darlin," so-called because of Doc's pet name for Lila, gets quite silly at times, but it's not intended as great drama. Rather, it's an amusing, sometimes hilarious, bit of fluff that makes for a generally pleasant theater-going experience.