Bad sex. Good sex. Uptight parents. Weird parents. Family disappointments. Health scares. Spoiled vacations. Surely one of theater’s most common and also most honorable goals is to transform the troubles and foibles of an ordinary life into compelling entertainment. Robin Amos Kahn and Gary Richards’ inauspiciously titled Scrambled Eggs does just that, with a lean script veined with humor; snappy staging by director Matthew Penn; a warmly energetic lead performance by Amy Van Nostrand; and a crack cast of supporting players eager to show off their formidable comic timing and transformative skills.
It’s an episodic comedy that throws the Aristotelian unities gleefully out the window as Karen (Van Nostrand) narrates us through her life, starting with a “present day” in which, at age 45, she’s suffering through the emotional and physical throes of a terrible perimenopause. Her devastating depression and anxiety keeps us just a little anxious ourselves, even though the script never teeters completely into gloom: Is this comedy going to become something else, as so many plays that start funny do?
Photo by Christian Woods
But the light touch persists through this coming-of-middle-age story. As doctor, therapist, parents, friends, boyfriends, and so on, the supporting cast delivers consistently funny and occasionally cruel moments that illuminate Karen’s travails in nifty ways, from her husband Dave’s (Jim Frangione) first, one-line appearance to Anne O’Sullivan’s hilarious sequence showing daughter Amy growing up over the course of a few seconds.
The timing at the end doesn’t seem to quite add up – it wasn’t clear, to me anyway, that we were caught up to the “present day,” when suddenly we were. And the resolution of Karen’s crisis feels too quick and pat for its comically extreme severity. But these are minor flaws in an enjoyable and fast-flowing hour-and-a-half of theater – 90 minutes during which, I should add, feminine tones dominated the bursts of laughter. The website quotes Meredith Vieira charcterization of the play as “a theatrical feast for women of all ages and the men who love them,” and she’s not kidding about its female skew.
Whatever sex you are, turning your life into a play is a dangerous game – dangerous for audiences, that is. But a lot of care, hard work, and talent have gone into making Scrambled Eggs into a deliciously prepared omelette. It runs through May 11 at Theatre Row’s Beckett Theatre. Visit the show’s website for tickets and more information, or call Telecharge at 212-239-6200 or 800-447-7400.