Coming Apart: Even The Title Could Function As The Play’s Own Review

I’m sitting here at one of the best coffee houses in our fair city, sipping a wonderfully strong latte, and even in the presence of a pleasing atmosphere that includes a terrific java jolt, I cannot think of one reason why a theater of the stature of the Invisible Theatre would produce Coming Apart, a totally bland play suitable only for—well, maybe community theater, in its rawest.

Seriously, I’m trying to think of a reason. Artistic director Susan Claassen has a supporting role, but I don’t think that was reason enough, even for satisfying whatever yearning she has to tread the boards. Which, by the way, she does frequently anyway with her show, A Conversation with Edith Head.

Fred Carmichael’s play is lifeless, dull and empty. That sounds harsh, but there’s no way around it.
The piece gives us a couple, both writers, Colin (David Alexander Johnston) and Frances (Susan Kovitz), who after 21 years of marriage announce simultaneously one morning that each wants a divorce. The piece squanders whatever potential that synchronicity might contain. It’s downhill from there, and the distance isn’t a short ride.

What we are in for is a series of memories of their meeting and courtship, in which their accounts differ radically. Well, semi-radically, anyway, coercing from us a chuckle or two. They each have work to do, so they decide to share the house until certain deadlines are met.

Wound through their spats and differing reveries is the story of their friends: their agent, Sylvia (Claassen) and Colin’s best friend, Bert (Jack Neubeck) who discover each other and get married and consort (not even in interesting ways—no, actually in invisible ways, because we are told that they have orchestrated this or that—we never see them conspiring) to convince their friends that they really love each other. Ya think they just might?

Even with their honest, although short of heroic, efforts, the cast cannot breathe life into this dialogue masquerading as a play. We are not particularly attached to the characters, the characters don’t seem attached to each other and we don’t learn anything new about relationships and marriage.

There are three directors acknowledged—Fred Rodriguez, James Blair and Katherine Byrnes—and that’s unusual, but I’m not sure what blame they legitimately bear. The design efforts are way too good for the play. Blair’s (with Claassen) set is perfection in that tiny space, and sound designers Claassen and Rob Boone uplift us from time to time. And costumes, although they don’t require being more than appropriate street clothes, are that, thanks to Maryann Trombino.

There are folks who will enjoy this show, no doubt. Sorry, but not this reviewer, because it is not at all clever and offers nothing new in style or content.

Let’s be clear. People work hard and commit significant personal resources to mount a play. And I don’t enjoy dissing folks I respect. I acknowledge their efforts.

I just wish they were working with a script worthy of those efforts.

Coming Apart
Produced by the Invisible Theatre
7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday through Sept. 11; 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 3 p.m., Sept. 14-18; additional show 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17
1400 N. First Ave.
Running time: 2 hours with intermission
882-9721; www.