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Theater Review (LA): ‘The Way You Look Tonight’ by Peter Lefcourt

Teddy (Robb Derringer) and Esme (Robin Riker), who were married for 16 years, have been divorced for four. Both have gone on to other partners, with Esme marrying Bernard (Jon Marzilli) and Teddy partnering with Robyn (Sean Smith). The estranged couple decides to reunite for the first time in years on the eve of their son’s graduation, making plans to meet at their favorite bistro. Arriving first with Bernard, Esme is already nervous, but when her former spouse comes in fashionably late, she is even more distressed to see him with another man on his arm...and a man in drag,…

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Summary : An intriguing premise is squandered in a well-staged but essentially ho-hum romantic comedy.

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Teddy (Robb Derringer) and Esme (Robin Riker), who were married for 16 years, have been divorced for four. Both have gone on to other partners, with Esme marrying Bernard (Jon Marzilli) and Teddy partnering with Robyn (Sean Smith). The estranged couple decides to reunite for the first time in years on the eve of their son’s graduation, making plans to meet at their favorite bistro. Arriving first with Bernard, Esme is already nervous, but when her former spouse comes in fashionably late, she is even more distressed to see him with another man on his arm…and a man in drag, to boot.

The-Way-You-Look-Tonight_1Teddy attempts to explain his relationship with Robyn as something that can’t be put into a tidy little packet. Still, Esme can’t help but wonder what she did to drive him into the arms of another man. Then, in a rather nice scene, she runs into Robyn at a shoe store and they share a moment of bonding over a pair of designer heels.

But that’s when the show takes a 180. Instead of pursuing this intriguing premise, Lefcourt decides to go the “second time around” route. Teddy and Esme begin to acknowledge the fact that they’re still attracted to each other, leaving Robyn and Bernard to stand on the sidelines and seethe while they go through the motions of rekindling their romance. It’s all been done before, and no amount of frantic running in and out of doors is going to bring this material back to life.

A bit of a breath of fresh air is supplied by Blake Silver as Ishmael, the”greek chorus” of the piece. He plays all the supporting characters (such as the outrageous French waiter at the bistro) and provides snarky commentary as the couple’s story grinds along. Frankly, he could have been snarkier.

The rest of the cast is certainly game. Derringer is an appealingly zany Teddy, and Riker gives Esme an edgy urgency. Smith’s reserved Englishman Robyn is oddly reminiscent of Alec Guinness, even in drag. The production is directed with élan by Terri Hanauer, and Celine Diano’s modular set design is pleasant, as is Dino Herrman’s sound. Sadly, it’s all just window dressing for some well-worn material…and Lefcourt clearly couldn’t think of an ending to boot.

The Way You Look Tonight plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 South Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles, through August 24. Reservations can be made online or by calling (323) 960-7712.

 

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About Kurt Gardner

Writer, critic and marketing expert whose passion for odd culture knows no bounds.