A Third*** (Finborough Theatre)

Posted: June 30, 2015 in Theatre

a-third-mainThis review was originally written for The Public Reviews: http://www.thepublicreviews.com

In a liberal-thinking and increasingly secular modern world, it is common to challenge traditional values and push boundaries. So, in a marriage, could monogamy perhaps become “monogom-ish”? Chicago-based writer Laura Jacqmin poses this question in her 100-minute one-act play, which gets its World Premier here. Living in an unnamed American city, Paul and Allison (Jeremy Legat and Asha Reid) have been married for six years and are seemingly contented with their lifestyle and devoted to each other. However, they decide that they can become even happier if they spice up their sex life together with the introduction of a “third”. Allison meets Jay (Will Alexander) and conducts something like a job interview, her nervousness contrasting with his laconic assuredness; he tells her that he has done it all before. After, the couple’s first liaison with Jay, Paul recruits another “third”, a wary lesbian, Mariella (Lucy Roslyn). Jacqmin begins her play with the recruitment of Jay, without having introduced us to Paul and Allison or having explained the thought processes that led them to taking this step. As a result, we are slow to understand the couple and, more critically, slow to warm to them when they begin to “feel feelings” as their learning curve steepens. The traditional rules of monogamy having been discarded, a new set of rules is devised and adhered to strictly by all four characters, but they are in uncharted territory and none of them can foresee how they will react emotionally to their entanglements. Jacqmin’s messages seem to be that relationships cannot be conducted like business transactions and that the tried and tested old rules may not be quite so bad after all. The use of a set that has been created for another play, running at the Finborough in repertoire, is not helpful to this production. The audience is seated all around a large lounge/dining room which looks more Chelsea, London than Chelsea, New York, although real traffic noise from outside goes some way to compensating for that shortcoming. Intermingling actors and an audience that needs to be shuffled around frequently is distracting as often as it is effective; it works well where scenes are set in crowded places, but it also works against the play at key moments of intimacy. Josh Roche’s low-key and leisurely production brings out the uncertainties besetting all four characters, but long silences occasionally slow things up a little too much. Jacqmin gives us a frank exploration of complex and interesting ideas, but, in this production, her play does not quite have the depth or the cutting edge that it really needs to make a strong impact.

Performance date: 29 June 2015

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