Saturday, March 12, 2005

Alone Together

Perhaps you’ve seen the television commercial – the product or service escapes me now. The father is down at the car telling his son goodbye as the son heads off for college. Dad is telling son that Mom is emotional and so she can’t come outside. Son says he understands, gets in the car and drives off. Dad returns to the house, jubilant to help Mom with the measurements for the remodel of son’s room. The nest is empty and the two of them intend to enjoy it to the fullest.

This is where Lawrence Roman’s very funny "Alone Together" begins. The comedy by the author of the better known "Under the Yum Yum Tree" is being presented, under the direction of Trent Beeby, at the Winters Community Theater, weekends through March 20th.

George and Helene Butler (Al Mendle and Anita Ahuja) have just sent their youngest son, Keith (Andrew Fridae), off to the University of Washington and they are about to enjoy the pleasures of an empty nest. Oldest son Michael (Jim Hewlett) is a mathematician who has a prestigious research position at MIT. Middle son Elliott (Danny Brooks) is married and living with his wife in Dallas.

George and Helene talk about all the things they are going to do together with their newfound independence. Helene points out that she’s been mothering children for most of her life. "It feels like I went from hula hoops to gestation," she says.

They talk of making love by the fire, of lounging about in the hot tub, of traveling the world to see all the things they’ve always wanted to see. Helene may turn the outbuilding into an art studio and take up painting again. She might just walk around the house naked if she feels like it. She’ll "do anything I want--even nothing."

The bubble is quickly burst by the appearance of 30 year old Michael, who has decided Boston is too hot in summer, too cold in winter, who misses his Southern California roots and has decided to move back into his old bedroom. He quickly takes over the house, moving his biology equipment into his bedroom, stealing Dad’s good wine, blowing up the building Mom was going to turn into a studio.

On Michael’s heels comes Elliott, who was caught cheating on his wife, who threw him out. He, too, has come home to Mom and Dad.

And before they have a chance to say anything, Janie arrives. Janie (Cara Patton) is a student Keith met in the bus station in San Francisco and, upon learning she couldn’t find a place to live near UCLA, he graciously offered her the use of his room at home with Mom and Dad.

Suddenly, what was anticipated to be a love nest for the rekindling of middle-age passion has become a home for wayward grown children. "They’re coming back like yo yos," says Helene.

Act 1 of this play is filled with with one-liners that had the audience laughing uproariously, as Helene and George try to find a way to reclaim their empty nest.

"When they're little, you just want to eat them up," Helene says. "And when they’re grown up, you wish you had!"

Act 2 isn’t quite as funny, as the struggle to make the kids stand on their own continues, but all’s well that ends well and everyone is satisfied by the end of the show.

As in any community theater production, there are some in the cast who are more at home on the stage than others, but the play was well rehearsed and there were no obvious major slip-ups, though there were a couple of awkward pauses here and there.

"Alone Together" is a gem of a script and the cast has obviously had a lot of fun putting it together. Given the response on opening night, the audience had as much fun watching it.