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Open: 06/01/12- Close: 06/17/12 Fifty Words By Michael Weller
Reviewed for By: Aurin Squire


"Fifty Words" is one of the most raw and explosives explorations of modern marriage in the last few years. It has everything that we're used to seeing in two-person relationship stories: sex, anger, lies, betrayal, and lingering questions of the future. Golden Lasso and Foaming at the Mouth Productions have undertaken a daring revival of Michael Weller's hit play at 45th Street Theatre. Despite some questionable moments, it s a commendable production that recreates a lot of the heat and tension from the show's initial run. 

The set up of "Fifty Words" is simple: a married couple having a night to themselves. The set-up is clear but the emotional fireworks over the next few hours are anything but. Adam, a successful New York architect and husband, is preparing for a business trip to meet a Midwestern client. Jan, a mom beginning her own start-up online company, shares the house with him as she finalizes a proposal for a major business deal tomorrow. Their son, Greg, is away at a sleepover and appears to finally be making friends and getting over some emotional issues. It's the first night they've had together in 9 years and that means almost a decade of not talking about unresolved issues. 

Adam tries to use their time together to be romantic, while Jan alternatively apologizes for being distracted by work and berates him for being so needy. That's when things get really interesting as Adam and Jan begin rehasing old incidents, strange clues, and trying to piece together where they are at this moment in time. Actor Bob Jesser captures the child-like enthusiasm, petulance, and truth-telling of Adam. His character is both obviously brilliant and emotionally keen and still childish and needy. His continual wordplay of twisting people's names he doesn't like into crude sexual puns is both cute and clearly indicative of a 40-year-old man who has not grown up. Jesser's rudy round face is that of a healthy, well-fed, class clown who grew up to be a slightly-less clownish sitcom Dad that we laugh at on TV. But in reality, guys like this are both endearing and enraging. 

Actress Jennifer Silverman captures the tightly-strung essence of Jan. Her character is a former dancer, rigid, cold, confused and self-conscious. Jan is a person who uses all her positions to continually seek validation at the same time shuns and ridicules direct compliments. Both husband and wife are extremely needy, emotionally damaged, brilliant, and frustrating people who haven't quite grown up. The acting duo wonderfully capture many of the details to their rocky marriage. What isn't as clear is their love. They seem more like a couple when they are arguing than when they are trying to be caring. And perhaps that is exactly the point being made by Weller and director Jason Bruffy: that in some long-term marriages people are more comfortable in the roles of conflict than compassion. Still it would have raised the stakes to first feel the couple's love before they begin tearing each other to pieces. 

Director Jason Bruffy does an expert job at keeping the piece moving at a brisk clip. The actors use the kitchen space well without feeling stagey. Scenic designer Clifton Chadick has dutifully recreated an upper-middle class kitchen with plenty of room for lovemaking, fighting, and eating. Despite the limits of the space, the setting feels completely believable and lived-in. 

"Fifty Words" boldly ventures into dangerous terrain of broken marriages and dysfunctional families. Rather than feeling cliche, this production gives a sharp new edge to the marriage drama. 

The 45th Street Theatre : 354 W. 45th St