Rating: 5 Stars
A Very Witty ‘Separate Beds’
Playwright M. J. Cruise delightful and well-written romantic comedy, ‘Separate Beds’ opened at Beverly Hills Theatre 40 last week. This is a character driven comedy so well acted by two actors, John Leslie and Mona Lee Wylde who play two couples, Ernie and Twink and also Blake and Beth. These four characters are fully realized by the two very talented actors. M. J. Cruise is deft at writing comedy and ‘Separate Beds’ is definitely ready for prime time. Melanie Mac Queen’s swift direction is flawless. This was a wonderfully funny play.
Jeff G. Rack’s set is that of a cruise ship. He really gives us the feel of a cruise ship cabin to perfection. The twin beds are wheeled in and out, as the set changes to a dining area and also the cabin with a big king sized bed. Ernie and Twink have twin beds while Blake and Beth have the luxurious king sized bed.
And the two sets of characters are as different as “day and night.” Or are they? The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. These two couples represent opposites.
Ernie owns a hardware store and he and Twink have been given this cruise for their thirty year wedding anniversary from their kids. Twink hopes to put some spark back into their marriage. But, she is the overbearing, pushy, critical wife who has been her husband’s book keeper. Ernie is a simple man who loves to putter around with a screw driver, and to fix things, even on this cruise. He dotes on his grandson. But, can he fix his marriage? Their marriage is missing romance, touch, hand holding, and sex. They have settled into a complacent but argumentative life. Twink looks in the mirror, “Everything’s dropped.” Ernie quips, “At least your eyesight’s good.” Wrong thing to say. Twink wants more but can Ernie give her more? Does he have it in him? “Everything breaks down if you don’t maintain it.” “We need a tune up.” And, of course, this cruise ship has encounter groups known as “Sizzlers.’ Ernie wants no part of that.
They meet Blake, the very successful wealthy owner of a series of optical boutiques and his actress wife, Beth. Their marriage is filled with kissing, cuddling, and sex. On the surface, they seem to have it all and seem to be happy as they frolic in their king sized bed. They have no children but they have each other. Is that enough? Beth is waiting to hear from her agent for a role she had auditioned for in a feature film.
Blake is always ready to capitalize on networking to get more business and his Milano line publicity. This couple is juxtaposed with Ernie and Twink.
The transitions both actors made was amazing and director Mac Queen is to be credited in bringing out strong performances. Wylde’s Twink has gray hair in a bob, a high pitched nasal voice that grates and annoys. Her Beth, has a blonde short do, radiates confidence, has a sexy lower voice and is seductive. Dan Leslie’s balding Ernie shrugs, and mugs and has one of the best deadpans. His facial expressions are worth a thousand words. He reins it in as the smooth Blake and dons a toupee and shiny black loafers as he becomes the upscale fellow who is full of confidence.
We get the boring couple versus the fun couple. It was clever how Cruise incorporated other characters in the dining room by having Twink and Ernie talk to them. Of course, we only hear one side of the conversations. But, this device worked well to transition the story line. And, of course, the two couples meet, but again we get one side of the conversation. Blake takes Twink on an offshore tour. The interaction is all done through dialogue, clever dialogue.
In Act two, some things unravel in Blake and Beth’s relationship. Beth has gone from doing Shakespeare to dog food commercials, and Depends may be next. Her career is waning. She regrets not having had children. She is tired of being the trophy wife. And, Ernie has to make an effort to save his marriage and he charms Twink and the audience in the Boomer talent show. Things come together for one couple as they fall apart for the other couple. The resolution was not predictable at all. We were kept guessing as to what was going to unfold. And, unfold it did with very clever and witty dialogue and laughter. Kuddos to M. J. Curise, Melanie Mac Queen, Dan Leslie and Mona Lee Wylde.