Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Duplex"

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note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Julie Levene


Reviewed by Julie Levene

Life can be tedious and mundane. Add to the mix a dash of resentment, a teaspoon of lust, a ľ cup of selfishness and some spicy neighbors, pressure-cook for several weeks in a two-family house in Somerville, and you have "Duplex", a world premiere original musical by Peter Fernandez, directed by Luke Dennis, and produced by Alarm Clock Theatre Company at the BCA.

Two thirtysomethings --- yuppy computer professionals that could pose for a couple in a Banana Republic ad --- serve as landlords. The husband (an overworked and undervalued corporate cog) and the wife (a virtual reality designer) are drifting apart as the vision they once shared for their wedded bliss is clouded by the pressure of making a life together. Two twentysomethings new to the world of living together move in next door. They look at life with starry-eyed aspirations for success and fulfillment in their perhaps distant future.

The bonds of each couple begin to loosen when jobs and dreams and expectations cause rifts. Before long, the two worlds of failing communication intertwine, as the young male tenant and the female landlord find the thrill of escapism in each otherís arms.

The play examines the purpose and plausibility of marriage, the pain of betrayal, and the possibility of second chances. Peter Fernandez, who wrote book, music, and lyrics, delivers a poignant story of relationships --- what it takes for them to succeed, and what contributes to their dissolution --- with sensitivity and honesty. The music ranges from stylized Loesser-like tunes to terse, jazzy numbers. Luke Dennisí direction is adept and fast-paced. Scenes intermingle and characters change --- from theme-restaurant staff to hair salon personnel to a modern day Shakespearean chorus of elderly dog walkers to office drones to lounge singers.

Landlords Sally Dennis and Tim Douglas are the backbone of the story. When the infidelity is found out, these actors share what is the most dramatic moment in the play with conviction and credibility. Amanda Meehan and Joseph Pelletier play the neophytes at love. Ms. Meehan embodies a wannabe career woman with just enough insecurity to counter her external confidence. Mr. Pelletier provides ample light-hearted laughs, until this self-loathing, visionless writer makes the move that sets the plot in motion. Matt Chapuran brings an absurd hilarity to the mix; Alysa Escobar also delivers strong characters in various swing role; Kristen Huberdeau's "moment" comes when she's nearly dumped out of her chair by an overly zealous date; and John Michael Dupuis portrays a boisterous cook and then a strolling old man with humor and boldness.

The cast delivered a mesmerizing evening for a very grateful audience. After hoots of applause at the curtain call, a second wave of spontaneous adulation erupted as the musicians came out from behind the curtain to make their way to the lobby.

Duplex runs through June 11th and judging from the packed houses its first two nights, word of mouth may very well lead to continued success for this production.

"Duplex" (27 May - 11 June)
@ Boston Center for The Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide