Review: In 'Your Best One' at Capital Repertory Theatre, good intentions are not always the stuff of good drama

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ALBANY, N.Y. — Meridith Friedman's "Your Best One" is a well-intentioned, decent play about well-intentioned decent people determined to do the right thing by each other. Good intentions, however, do not compelling theater always make. "Your Best One," which is having its East Coast premiere in a well-intentioned, decent production at Capital Repertory Theatre, is a case in point.

It is no idle chance that one of the play's central characters has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. "Your Best One," at its heart, is a play about healing — of all kinds.

At its emotional center, "Your Best One" is a love story involving two men — Richard (James Lloyd Reynolds), an internist with an apparently hugely successful practice and key professional connections, and his ex-lover and partner, David (Michael McCorry Rose), a freelance techie doing the best he can to make a financially secure life for himself and his 15-year-old son, Josh (a likable Jake Goodman), whom he adopted when Josh was seven and hoped to raise in partnership with Richard. But Richard bailed and walked out. Now, eight years later, spurred by information that David has pancreatic cancer and possessed of the wherewithal to shepherd David through his health crisis, Richard returns, wanting to make amends and re-start their relationship. That means establishing a meaningful connection with Josh, who, initially, knows nothing of Richard's previous relationship with his father.

The irony in "Your Best One" is that its strengths are also its greatest weaknesses. Friedman sets up a series of loaded situations — the interaction among Richard, David and Josh; Richard's sister Laura's nasty custody battle with her ex-husband; Richard and Laura's father, Oscar (Lenny Wolpe), dealing with the early stages of Alzheimer's in his assisted living apartment — which, to her credit, she deals with in atypical non-melodramatic ways. Her characters are all decent, smart people of emotional and financial means who deal with the consequences of the choices they have made by placing their respective self-interests second to the interests of those they love. As a result, problems get resolved long before they become formidable. Friedman steers clear of the melodrama inherent in dysfunctional family drama. The familial community in which "Your Best One" operates is functional; benevolent and gentle. That's not something you see much of onstage, film or television these days. But, at the same time, there is little there there. Outcomes are never in doubt. And so, you are left, at the end with a feeling of "Okay. And ... ?"

To be fair, under Gordon Greenberg's steady directorial hand, "Your Best One" is being given an ably mounted production on an inventive two-tiered setting designed by Claite Hevner, who also designed the beautifully crafted projections. Greenberg also has at his disposal an able cast highlighted especially by Kate Wetherhed's robust, outspoken, conflicted Laura, Richard's lawyer sister. The production is perhaps at its most effective in its scenes between Richard and David, particularly the opening scene which is played by Reynolds and Rose with a catching sense of nuance and tension that suggests the road to reconciliation may be more arduous than, in fact, turns out.

"Your Best One" was the best one in Capital Rep's 2017 Next Act! New Play Summit. "It rose to the top," Capital Rep producing artistic director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill told the opening night audience in her pre-curtain remarks. "Sort of like cream," I thought, somewhat whimsically. More like skim milk, it turns out.

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