Alone at the Beach

By Richard Dresser
Directed by Robert Francis Perillo
Urban Island Theater Group
Jose Quintero Theater
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Jenny Sandman

It’s every New Yorker’s worst nightmare: being stuck in an expensive summer beach share in the Hamptons with a bunch of annoying strangers in a house nowhere near the beach. To make matters worse, there’s no TV and no phone. The "no pets" and "no smoking" rules are flagrantly ignored; the high-strung lawyer (who finds Kafka funny) refuses to pitch in for food if the money is spent on doughnuts and beer. She’s not above sneaking the doughnuts, though.

Naturally, in the midst of such roiling animosity, people start hooking up. The original personality clashes become lover’s spats and jealous infighting. The secret attractions become known, the trysts become more frequent. George, the passive nerd who owns the house, falls deeply in love with one of his houseguests. She has an on-again, off-again relationship with her ex-husband, and when it goes on again, George is forced to deal with the ex’s condescending presence -- who, it turns out, is George’s therapist. In the great tradition of theatrical comedy, hilarity ensues. But in the end, they all manage to connect on more than a physical level.

Alone at the Beach is a great character study, and this production by the Urban Island Theater Group emphasized that with some really excellent ensemble acting. Tom Oppenheim as George (the nerd) and Michael Linstroth as Robbie (the charismatic playboy) stood out, but the cast as a whole was commendable. Oppenhiem and Linstroth offered fine performances along with Angela Vitale, Elizabeth Ureneck, Dominic Inzana, Lisa Vioni, and Doug Olear. Their comic timing was near perfect. The slightly cramped environs of the Jose Quintero Theater highlighted the tension of too many people in a small, oddly shaped house. The direction, by Robert Francis Perillo, was strong and clear (as was the lighting by Charles Cameron), and the set, by Mark Delancey, was lovely, especially the painted walls with meadow scenes. Those were perfect kitsch. The costumes and sound were also quite good.

Dresser is a master playwright when it comes to the intricacies of modern-day relationships, and Alone at the Beach does not disappoint. New Yorkers always enjoy voyeuristic glimpses into other New Yorkers’ dysfunctional lives, so it should not disappoint. And these days, anything funny is a relief; this show, then, was a godsend, because it was continually hilarious.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Sets: 2
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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