by Susan Hasho
If you are a fly on the wall for a family dilemma – be prepared! Batten down the hatches. The Exes is full of family of several different stripes and dilemmas galore. In fact, there’s even a butler. It opens with a man Richard (Tim Hayes) talking on a cell phone, having an obviously annoying business call. He’s interrupted by a friend, Dick (David M. Farrington) who congratulates him on a wedding. Enter the butler Prim (John Coleman Taylor), who doesn’t like Dick. Offering Dick more champagne, he takes the glass and replaces it with the champagne bottle saying, “There. Pretend it’s a Colt 45. Now all you have to do is stuff it in a brown paper bag and I just bet there’s an empty park bench in Boston Commons with your name on it.”
They speak of Mavis (Karen Forte), the ex-wife of both men. Richard doesn’t want to sign the divorce papers. They discuss Richard’s business of forever-lasting floral boutonnieres. Prim enters and announces Garrett (Galen Molk), Dick’s son who is a casually dressed, bro-in-hoodie, pretty much a fan of both of these men, and incidentally, of Prim.
Garrett leaves to take a shower. Doorbell rings, and the next person to be ushered in by Prim is a great surprise—Mavis, ex-wife. Fur coat, lovely blonde hair and it must be noted, she is a Force. This scenario is the set up. At first, I thought the acting was a little presentational, facing the audience at certain moments like a sit com and perhaps a little faux. But as the play moved on, there was a clever style emerging: It teetered on the edge of farce, each character a little large and then, not. Once the drama moved in, the exaggeration was no longer out of place, but well deserved and funny.
Mavis is surprised to see both husbands in the room. She is on a mission and is only prepared to see Richard, her latest husband. Richard’s daughter is getting married that afternoon and Mavis is not invited much to her dismay. But her mission must continue, so press on she does. She will let her objections to the pre-nup go, etc…He wants to know about the affair that led her to leave him and move to Copenhagen…Doorbell rings and Prim ushers in Victoria (Alison Preece), the bride to be with a huge problem she wants Daddy to fix. Digby won’t sign the pre-nup and she hasn’t shown it to him until the morning of the wedding. An altercation ensues about pre-nups, insurance for or curse to a relationship; did Mavis love Victoria or dump her, did Victoria ignore Garrett growing up—and he’s only here because his father made him.
Doorbell rings and Prim ushers in—surprise—Mavis’ lover Marcel Nistlerood (Kyle Porter).
Now the spoiler would be if I told you what Marcel looked like or how he behaved; but he is a delightful concoction on the playwright Lenore Skomal’s part and beautifully acted by Kyle Porter. After much enjoyable conversation with and about Marcel, daddy fixes the pre-nup situation and they all leave for the wedding; leaving Prim alone to follow and to open the door for the returning Mavis who wangles his wedding invitation from him.
The end of the play is a very honest awakening for the family, each member in his or her own way and the farcical aspects fade to the background making for a heartwarming finish. The Exes is, in the end, an accomplished and funny play directed by Magda S. Nyiri with clarity and fun. And the actors in this comedy are completely in sync with each other and the characters: Tim Hayes as Richard with a blend of successful “wealthiness” mixed perfectly with some understandable befuddlement; David Farrington as Dick is a warm solid sidekick; John Coleman Taylor as Prim who,with perfect timing and subtle constant subtext, shines in every scene he’s in; Karen Forte as Mavis is elegant and slightly askew—charming; Galen Molk as Garrett is part kid, part sage and totally perfect; Alison Preece as Victoria, makes the whole pampered pout girl entertaining; and Kyle Porter as Marcel could have been a clown, but emerges as complicated and honest, though outlandish, in this performance.
It’s fortunately extended Through October 5!
Photos: Emily Hewitt
Theater Row – Theater Four 410 W. 42nd Street, NY, NY 10036
Tickets can be found at https://www.bfany.org/theatre-row/shows/the-exes/.