The very clever Joe DiPietro has written a very clever play that brings “That Girl” – Marlo Thomas back to the New York stage where she rightfully belongs. Her distinctive voice is heard off stage in the second scene of this five character comedy – I am including the newly born baby girl of her son Billy and his wife Jane – the sound cues for her are excellent and she is unknowingly the catalyst of much that follows.
Bill, Sr. (Greg Mullavey) and his son Bill (George Merrick) have just had a post tennis match man to man heart to heart face to face talk in the locker room of their health club where Bill has disclosed an indiscretion and begs his dad not to let on with his mom Alice (Marlo Thomas) who somehow has a knack for knowing when all is not right.
As it turns out he is right about his mom who bemoans working in a bookstore while keeping her beige life in the suburbs on an even keel and attempting to do what parents are supposed to do – help their children.
Once she gets a whiff of a problem she does a Miss Marple – searching for clues to unearth what the trouble with her son and his wife is all about. They are summoned to dinner. There is an amusing albeit a tad too long drive with wife (Kate Wetherhead) and baby in the rear seat while excellent projections get them to their destination.
Up to now you may be thinking this is your run of the mill sit-com. All they need are some commercials to fill in this elongated skit but then the clever plot takes a very clever turn resulting in unexpected developments as Alice tries to explain what her son should do – in subtle ways and words that result in her speaking herself into a corner where the only way out is telling the truth about some past events that eventually affects them all.
It’s surprising and fun and heartfelt. The little lies have an hysterical snowballing effect that leads to a very satisfactory conclusion for the audience.
Two generations dealing with basically the same problems. What happens after the first child is born. What adjustments have to be made. What makes a marriage work. What is love and what is a simply a detour.
CLEVER LITTLE LIES is deftly directed by David Saint. The design elements by Yoshi Tanokura are excellent. And Marlo Thomas is back. Better than ever – showing us she has more to deliver than just a quirky character with a distinctive look and voice.
At the Westside Theatre/Upstairs. 90 minutes. No intermission.
Photos: Matthew Murphy
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