BENNINGTON, Vt. -- A play date runs amok and it’s not the kids who are creating the havoc in John Morgiello’s comedy "Play Date," which is receiving a heavyhanded, puerile world premiere at Oldcastle Theatre Company.
What begins as an anticipated tryst between a restless housewife and mother, named Missy, and Trent, a stay-at-home father trading his lingering celebrity as the star of a series of TV commercials for a career as a Tequila-swilling lothario specializing in one-on-one play dates with moms looking for a bit of spice goes awry when Missy’s politically ambitious husband, Blaine, unexpectedly takes a day off from work to help her in an effort to strengthen his political bona fides as a caring father and devoted husband.
To throw Blaine off the track, Missy hastily invites two other mothers -- Carol, a divorced mother of five boys who is desperate to have a daughter, and Deb, the "perfect" mother who is desperate to prove just how "bad" she can be. Meanwhile, Blaine has taken it upon himself to invite a single dad named Rowan, a pedantic English literature professor from England whose wife died in childbirth.
It’s not too long before the competing interests of Morgiello’s six characters -- played by only two actors -- collide, setting everyone in disarray, except the unseen kids who seem to be quite happy, silent and virtually on their own.
Beneath all the smug borrowing of conceits snd conventions, and chaos that borders on uncontrolled, Morgiello has things he wants to say about relationships, family, commitment, communication and realizing that we don’t have to go far to find what is of value and meaning in our lives.
But his play, particularly in director Eric Peterson’s far-more-labored-than-playful production, is at war with itself. Its varying styles compete with, rather than support, each other. "Play Date’s" genuinely serious moments are at too-sharp odds with its freewheeling nature.
Sandy York is at her most interesting and revealing as Missy -- worn, tired, restless, uncertain, locked in a marriage to a boorish man with misguided ambitions and misplaced pride.
Jim Staudt’s boorish, self-absorbed Blaine is barely distuinguishable from Staudt’s boorish, self-absorbed lothario, Trent. Staudt’s cartoonish Rowan is a terribly missed opportunity to catch the heart of a man whose pedantry cloaks his pain, shyness and loneliness.