Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 11, 2009

Caroline In Jersey

Williamstown Theatre Festival, Williamstown, MA
through August 16, 2009
by Meghan Lynn Allen

"Caroline In Jersey" takes the audience down an unconventional path that winds through the stages of grief - seen through the eyes of four characters brought together by more than a few degrees of separation. Caroline (Lea Thompson) is the jilted actress/soon-to-be ex-wife who must frustratingly share the stage with her actor/soon-to-be ex-husband each night in the doomed musical "Petz," authored by their friend David. Matt McGrath plays David, the clich├ęd gay best friend who is there for Caroline as she verges on a nervous breakdown. McGrath has a dry, comedic delivery that is spot on. His character is predictable, yet sweet. Mimi (Brenda Wehle) is the bitter spinster who rents Caroline an apartment in Jersey, much to Caroline's appreciation and dismay. Mimi supplies Caroline, as well as the audience, with Jersey's local color, in addition to helping to unfold the history of a certain family mystery. Wehle brings believability to Caroline's fantastical world that is much needed. Finally, Will LeBow plays Will, a peculiar former tenant who hasn't quite left the premises. Will and Caroline find unexpected common ground as they sort out their pasts and their futures. Though mostly grumpy and tortured, LeBow lends a quality to Will that makes him endearing and entertaining to watch.

Lea Thompson puts her self out there for the audience to laugh in so many ways and it is so much fun. Whether donning a space dog suit, gulping down her concoction of Lucky Charms and tequila, barking to music, or drunk-dialing her ex-husband at 3a.m., Thompson successfully runs wild with Caroline's quirky, tormented existence. Thompson equally portrays Caroline's lows of fear, despair, and grief as she struggles through enormous personal crises.

Playwright Melinda Lopez presents a fantasy passing itself off in the environment of reality. It is difficult to determine just how much the audience is supposed to believe to be fantasy and just how much is supposed to be a leap of faith. Nonetheless, it is an entertaining piece that thinks outside the box and is worth glimpsing before it's gone.