The Set-Up, a contemporary play about modern relationships featuring writer and director James Lindenberg, and currently playing at The ArcLight Theater, offers some laughs and some recognizable moments of dating angst but ultimately does not distinguish itself. In this new play, Bill and Doris, a happily married couple (Scott Cunningham and Jennifer Danielle) introduce two of their chronically single thirtysomething friends over dinner: Carolyn, a striking but tense Wall Street attorney (Tara Westwood) and Robert, a laid-back teacher (Lindenberg). While the pair do not seem an obvious match, their friends insist that they were made for each other.
The initial double-date is a disaster and touches nicely on some of the potential faux-pas of a set-up. Carolyn becomes annoyed at Robert's flirting with a young waitress (Tracey Weiner), and Robert is intimidated by the $250 bottle of wine that Carolyn orders and insists on paying for. To top it off, serious chinks in the armor of what seemed to be a solid marriage for Doris and Bill are revealed.
Over the course of the rest of the play, Doris and Bill’s marriage slowly unravels, as fate puts Carolyn and Robert in each others' paths again with unexpected results.
The strength of the play comes from the fact that the erstwhile couple exhibit both honesty and vulnerability in their sometimes very well-written monologues about the trials of being single in the city. Westwood in particular does a nice job in displaying a range of emotional colors. The scenes involving four characters are particularly enjoyable as the pace picks up and real tension becomes evident.
The less successful elements of the play are plot twists that are so neat as to be unbelievable, some patches of less-than-interesting dialogue, and an unnecessary scene involving Carolyn and her father.
Danielle turns in a solid performance as a frustrated wife, while Scott Cunningham’s Connecticut yuppie has a slightly forced overeager quality. In contrast to Carolyn and Robert, the characters of Bill and Doris do not seem three-dimensional, but are instead simple foils for the central love story.
Weiler shines in her cameo as the aggressive and oversexed waitress, and the dance sequence between her and lothario Tony (Major Dodge) is one of the highlights of the show. Dodge does fine work in his multiple roles of Tony and Ted, but misses the boat when playing Carolyn's father.
Overall, audience members will find some amusing moments in this uneven new play delivered by an energetic young cast.