CHESTER -- In "Run ning," which is being given a credible production at Chester Theatre Company, Arlene Hutton gives us a ships-that-pass-in-the-night play about two unlikely people who meet, talk, reminisce and go on with their lives, each presumably just a bit wiser for the encounter.
It is the night before the New York Marathon and Stephen (a down-to-earth, folksy Jay Strat ton), who is preparing for his first attempt at the race, needs his sleep. His wife, Stephanie, is away on business in London to give him the solitude and space he needs to get ready.
Fate intervenes with the unexpected, and unwelcome, arrival of a very old friend of Stephan ie, a woman named Emily (Mel issa Hurst) who, like Stephen, was part of the transient crowd that made a home in Stephan ie's West Side New York apartment sometime during the Eighties. It turns out, Stephen, too, was part of that crowd only he married Stephanie and stayed.
As played by Hurst, Emily, who lives in London, has a restless probing energy. She is running away from a very bad marriage. Stephen is a formerly successful architect of work places whose career has gone belly up and whose marriage, he suggests, is an uneasy blend of accommodation and settling.
As night jogs toward morning, Stephen and Emily reminisce about the freewheeling good old days in the apartment; their disappointments in life; the what ifs. And, of course, there is the underlying will-they-won't-they tension, especially when Emily suggests, partly in jest, that perhaps Stephanie isn't being entirely honest with the Stephen about the nature of her yearly art gallery trips to London.
The perception and keen un derstanding that Hutton brought to her "Nibroc Trilogy," especially the first play, "Last Train to Nibroc," isn't as evident here. To her credit, Hutton doesn't always give in to the easy cliche, the shattering late-night revelation, for example, that changes the course of a life, or two. These are two people trying to find accommodation with lives that have, for different reasons, reached a pause. But at the same time, when all has been said and done, you can't help but wonder "Okay, that's pleasant, that's nice. Is that all there is?"
RUNNING by Arlene Hutton. Directed by Ron Bashford; set de sign, David Towlun; lighting design, Jill Nagle; costume design, Heather Fricker Aulenback; sound design, Tom Shread. Through Sunday. Eves.: Tonight, Sat. 8. Mat.: Sun. 2. Ches ter Theatre Com pany, Chester Town Hall, 15 Middlefield Road (at Route 20), Chester. Tickets: $33, $28. (1-800) 595-4849;m www.chestertheatre.org. 1 hour 25 minutes
Stephen Jay Stratton
Emily Melissa Hurt