An award-winning playwright and published choral composer, M.J. Cruise has written plays which have been performed across Canada, the U.S., and abroad. Her keen eye to the subtleties of marriage is brilliantly displayed in Theatre 40’s current production of SEPARATE BEDS.
Ernie owns a small hardware store in Middle America, while his wife Twink keeps the books. Their kids have given them a gift cruise to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary. Recently, they’ve been squabbling, and Twink feels that the “twinkle” has gone out of their marriage. It’s just that Ernie seems amusingly oblivious to the problem. Twink’s “hints” have taken on a life of their own as she tries to add that special something, which seems to have disappeared over the years, to their coupling. And their room just happens to have twin beds. Meanwhile, Blake, a well-to-do eyewear entrepreneur, and his actress wife Beth are on the same cruise. They’ve been wed for ten years and, as the play opens, seem to be blissfully happy. Their bed just so happens to be a king.
When the two couples meet in the dining room on the first night of the cruise, sophisticated Blake and Beth find small-town Ernie and Twink to be terminally boring. Meanwhile, down-home Ernie and Twink find Blake and Beth very much into themselves and their accomplishments. Blake is constantly on the alert for a deal to line his coffers. He’s currently on the look-out for a wealthy financier who’s also on the cruise. Beth is waiting for word from her agent about a possible role in an upcoming George Clooney opus. These two couples have little in common – until Blake sniffs out Ernie’s lineage and realizes that Ernie’s brother may be worth meeting. As the brief few days aboard wear on, cracks begin to appear in both couples’ relationships. Will blissfully unaware Ernie finally catch on to Twink’s complaints? Can a couples session focused on getting marriage to “sizzle” wake Ernie up? Is it possible that Blake and Beth are drifting apart? Does Beth want more from life than being a trophy wife and occasional film actress?
SEPARATE BEDS examines the dynamics of marriage while creating smiles, chuckles, and even guffaws. Many in the audience will probably recognize themselves in this hilarious study of couples trying to work things out. Daniel Leslie (Ernie/Blake) and Mona Lee Wylde (Twink/Beth) do a great job of playing both couples, while the production crew does a tireless job of transitioning two beds into one – and vice versa – as the story progresses. Director Melanie MacQueen really has a handle on marital conflicts, compromises, and subtleties; it shows in her clever direction of this romantic comedy.
To say that Jeff G. Rack’s set design is interesting would be minimizing the obviously clever (and frequent) changes between two bedrooms and the ship dining room. Michele Young’s costumes and Judi Lewin’s makeup/wig/hair design ably assist in creating two very distinct pairs out of the same two actors. The production team, as always, is on the ball and ready to tackle any and all assignments. Theatre 40 has again produced a play well worth the attention of its loyal followers.