note: entire contents copyright 2002 by Beverly Creasey
Janie Howland's set for "The Maiden's prayer" at the Huntington Theatre's Studio 210 says it all. A gorgeous blue sky with puffy white clouds, on closer inspection, is patched together and mismatched, like the lives of the five characters in Nicky Silver's hip comedy of manners. A tall vitrine filled with the contents of an elegantly appointed home stands in for the actual house. Even the children's toys are encased in glass, as if a silver service or a hobby horse could take the place of a family. We discover that the young man who grew up here is a recovering alcoholic.
The play opens at his very wedding reception, where his best friend has been supplanted as best man by a relative of the bride. Her sister, a refugee from the bridal party, has come outside to escape the celebration and rail against the proceedings. She latches on to the groom's blyhood friend and they have a lot in common, including big crushes on the groom.
Silver's oddly ambiguous title --- it could be a song; it could be a drink; only Silver knows for sure --- belies a surefooted play full of hilarious characters, chic dialogue, and even a nifty moral dilemma for the best friend. Director Scott Edmiston gets bravura performances from the whole cast, especially the comic characters: From Mark Setlock as the groom's best friend, a man who would rather move than break off a relationship; From Judith McIntyre, so boozily charming that we can accept her dubious life choices; And from Barlow Adamson as a deliriously happy squatter who values cable TV more than a bed.
Dee Nelson as the coldhearted wife does manage to wrest our sumpathy away from the alcoholic husband --- not an easy task, given Silver's bias, but it's only shortlived. Bill Mootos subtly conveys the cracks in the veneer eraly on, as the husband whose whole sobriety depends on his wife as his "higher power". The five bump into each other in the strangest combinations, careening around New York looking for love in all the wrong --- and some of the right --- places. Silver's surprises and Edmiston's light touch mean surefire laughs and a delightful start to the Huntington's "Small Stages".