Gary is having one heck of a bad week. In addition to being subordinated by his secretary, Bethany (Monica Yudovich), a woman unfamiliar with the term "too much information," the poor guy has just received some startling news. His wife, it turns out, has been having an affair with his best friend, Paul (Shane Jacobsen). She's been unfaithful with someone else too—Paul's own wife, Gail (Katie Kreisler). Both Paul and Gail go on to describe their rabid sexual encounters with Gary's wife in Alex Goldberg's cutish play I'm in Love With Your Wife, but this is no live-action Kama Sutra. It's a wake-up call for Gary (played to good comic and frustrated effect by Ean Sheehy) to reclaim his own life.
With each scene in Wife, Goldberg raises not only the silliness factor but also the character count. After surviving the confessions of his two friends (and apparently an additional affair between the equally freewheeling Bethany and Paul), Gary recounts these latest developments to his psychiatrist, Dr. Feldberg (Ron Palillo of Welcome Back, Kotter). Like most therapists in comedic pieces, Feldberg has just as many quirks as his patients do. He continually breaches patient-confidentiality trust and hints at an unhealthy obsession with actor Jon Voight.
Still, he's Gary's only hope for a personal breakthrough. The two use a "color therapy"—in which Gary personifies his emotions of the day as a color, with the hope of getting to their cause—that actually makes a good deal of sense. In these therapy scenes, Sheehy does a sly job of fusing comedic haplessness with dramatic intensity.
Rather than urge Gary to confront his wife, or Paul and Gail, Feldberg tells him to go ahead with his plans to throw a dinner party in his apartment with his wife and their adulterous friends. Before one can say "inkblot," Feldberg has invited himself to the shindig.
Moreover, he has corralled himself a date in the form of Ruth (Marion Wood), an aspiring actress who happens to be the patient Feldberg sees after Gary. As if these complications weren't enough of a clue that Goldberg does not know how to quit when he is ahead, he piles on another twist. As an acting challenge, Ruth will pretend to be a Ukrainian expatriate. This type of plotting is gratuitous; it doesn't add humor, just running time. That said, Wood is a standout in the role, with deft timing and a great sense of physical comedy.
Roughly the second half of Wife consists of the dinner party, to which Bethany has also invited herself. Throughout this extended scene, various cast members excuse themselves to go offstage to cavort with Gary's wife. As one might have guessed by now, this vixen is never seen—it would diminish her reputation to humanize her. So Wife starts to sink into a puddle of silliness.
Director Tom Wojtunik has a good track record. His 2005 Fringe Festival entry, The Miss Education of Jenna Bush, was a smart send-up of wanton shallowness that still had a beating heart to it, and his stewardship of the Gallery Players's Urinetown just landed a New York Innovative Theater Award nomination for Best Musical. He constantly finds ways to block his six actors so as to break up the action, but Goldberg doesn't know when to call it quits, and Wojtunik seems at a loss to rein this show in. Paul and Gail become increasingly cartoonish, and Gary's desperation reaches a fever pitch long before he finally does anything about it. As a result, this play just moves in circles for almost a half-hour.
Yet Wife is certainly worth seeing. As Gail, Kreisler has a lot of presence, and her early scenes, including a raunchy moment with the effervescent Yudovich, are quite amusing. I would like to see her command the stage in a larger role. Jacobsen is charming too, though the Lothario he plays lacks the sharp edges that come with playing such a character.
Palillo, for his part, artfully underscores his character's zaniness with a hint of insecurity that also explains why he can get to the heart of Gary's own problems. All six actors provide nice touches, but the play spreads their big moments too thin. While it shows potential, I am not sure there is a full-length play here.