Robert Axelrod Review of Separate Beds
SEPARATE BEDS opens on a stateroom aboard the Royal Princess liner, in which the beds are two miles apart. Sleeping, or at least trying to sleep, in the stage right bed, is wife Twink Frazier. In the stage left bed is her husband Ernie. They are there celebrating year thirty of a marriage that has become mundane in nature. They are attempting to light some fire under their fannies by taking this love cruise. Twink goes to bed with a life jacket on and a fear of growing older. Ernie has a pretty consistent grumpy attitude that he takes to bed with him. They don’t exactly argue, they just gently clash, as the magic has long gone from their marriage. Next morning, Twink is up and exercising while Ernie continues being grumpy.
A day passes during which our couple has befriended another couple on board, Beth and Blake. Through Twink and Ernie’s conversation we learn that Beth and Blake have a supposedly ideal, glamorous marriage. Beth is a successful actress and Blake is a wealthy optometrist. Twink envies them while Ernie says “big deal”. During a storm that has hit, we learn that Ernie has invented a non-sliding deck chair (Ernie owns and runs a hardware store) that he has been too timid to promote despite Twink’s encouragements. The couple gets invited to dine at the Captain’s table but they have a miserable time of it. Things are just not going right with this marriage. One of the ship’s many activities is a marriage tune-up session called “Marriage Sizzlers”. Twink wants them to participate, Ernie pooh-poohs it. Finally, there’s a ship talent show that Twink wants them to participate in, doing a scene from ROMEO AND JULIET, Ernie goofs on the idea. The act ends with Twink getting an opportunity to substitute for Beth as Juliet to Blake’s Romeo in the same scene. She jumps at the idea!
Act Two opens on a similar stateroom save for one factor: there is one big king-sized bed at its center. In it are the other couple, Beth and Blake, around the same age as Twink and Ernie, celebrating their tenth anniversary. Beth’s the complainer and Blake is the optimist here. An actress, she’s up for a big movie starring opposite George Clooney and she’s chained to her cell phone awaiting the big call from her agent. They go to breakfast in matching sunglasses and matching postures, vowing not to sit with “that couple” (Twink and Ernie) again. On the surface, it appears that they have a pretty ideal marriage, but through the Act we gradually learn they are far from ideal. Rather than go into detail on it, I will leave you to see this pleasant comedy to learn the remaining details. Suffice to say that things work out to a surprising end.
Both couples are played by the same actor and actress, and it is a pleasure to see the transformations between the two pairs. Mona Lee Wylde plays Twink & Beth, and her transformation from the almost homely Twink to the glamorous Beth is both subtle and miraculous. Ms. Wylde wisely doesn’t go to extremes with the two characters. Her portrayals are realistic and believable. Daniel Leslie plays Ernie and Blake and his change is a pleasant surprise. He portrays both characters with no tricks; he lets the material do the talking, the mark of a good actor. Said material is written by Canadian playwright M.J. Cruise. The play is clever and amusing and Melanie MacQueen’s direction is spot on. I didn’t find myself laughing out loud much through the piece, but it did produce smiles.
May 20, 2016