Whiskey, Beer and Apple Pie
nytheatre.com review by Heather Lee Rogers
July 13, 2009
Whiskey, Beer and Apple Pie is being performed at the Dorothy Strelsin Theater, which has a thrust stage. A thrust stage is one that sticks out like a peninsula into the audience. This one is a small square shape with the audience divided evenly on three sides. The play is in three acts about three different couples coping with the fallout of their breakups. They all take place in the same restaurant set up with tables and chairs. Each couple essentially enters, plants themselves at a table and stays in their seats, facing each other, for most of their scene. The key to staging on a thrust stage is to avoid letting the blocking get static for too long for sightline purposes and to work with smart angles. Diagonal planes work better than perpendicular ones for conversations between two people, for example. Director Rob Egginton has directed this play with very little regard for the layout of the theatre. For the most part the actors stay stuck in their places and do not seem to be individually conscious of the fact that the audience is on three sides of the stage. Therefore, the rest of my review must be taken with the understanding that I was in the 2/3 of the audience that was not in the favored middle section. Thus my experience of the performances of 50% of the cast in each scene was limited to the backs of their heads and their voices.
That said, the plays otherwise work pretty well. Along with being in the same restaurant, all three failed couples are attended by the same waitress, as if they are all part of her shift. This provides a nice throughline, especially when her own ex-boyfriend drops by to kick off the last scene. The writing is modern and funny in an entertaining sitcom style. As a play about the complexities of relationships in the present day, there are references to Facebook, blogging, and Twitter. Confronting someone face to face about their Twitter tweets turns out to be pretty darn funny on stage (as handled by actor Brian Morvant). Notable performances are also given by Amanda Duffy as a dry-witted book lover and Scarlett Thiele as the indie rock dreamgirl that got away. Although the play works hard to differentiate the characters and their unique breakup situations, certain phrases and words seem to be overly popular in this restaurant, such as "ruse" and "dog and pony show," which appear a few times each. Another recurring theme is that the sentiment "it's not me, it's you" (no matter how it's said) is never really the honest truth. Overall the acting from the ensemble and writing are solid enough to meet the demands of the play structure, though the choices rarely surprise. And some of the actresses have very pretty hair that I got the opportunity to study intently.