Last Sunday evening I drove to Massachusetts Avenue in downtown Indianapolis to the Theatre on the Square (TOTS) to see “In Bed With Chuck & Lois.” It was written by Joni Hilton and directed by Thomas Turner, with assistance from stage manager Sharon Cruz.
It was Thom’s directorial debut. He did a great job! This show for adults is odd (what TOTS show isn’t?) and hilarious.
Putting It Together
After the show I asked Thom what directing was like for him. He said that he had tried to take what was best from the example of his mentor, TOTS artistic director Ron Spencer, but that he had also discovered that his own approach was “more organic.”
He said that at the beginning of the rehearsal process, “I told the actors to get up on stage with their scripts and just see where the play led them.” He would then tell them what to keep. “They were still discovering things opening night!”
This rehearsal process seems to have worked well for the five-member cast. The cast is a pleasing mix of TOTS veterans and TOTS newcomers. They seem to have found the right mix of playfulness and control to make the piece zing.
The show is odd because there is not much plot at all until the very end of the first act, but you don’t care because you are laughing so hard. The premise (and the actors’ well-timed execution of it) is what makes the show a success:
An ordinary married couple comes home from a party. We are in their bedroom with them, hearing them converse with each other as they get ready for bed. We also hear what their brains are saying, which is often very different from what the husband and wife are saying out loud.
It is as simple as that.
Oh, I suppose there is some plot tension in the fact that the husband wants to have sex and the wife doesn’t. But mostly you’re engaged because neither the husband nor the wife is the virtuous one, and because no matter who is talking, all four actors are always fully in their roles, always doing something that exactly fits, even if it is very subtle.
Chuck & Lois & Their Brains…and Her Brother
Cindy Phillips plays a tiny, desperately elegant and competent housewife named Lois Blambauer. Lois’s Brain, which is the same as Lois’s self-image, is portrayed as a slovenly, larger, older failure by beautiful-in-real-life Juli Inskeep. When Lois looks in the mirror, she sees everything that is “wrong” with her.
On the other hand, when middle-aged huggy bear Chuck Blambauer (played by attractive-in-real-life Darrin Gowan) looks in the mirror, he sees a lean, tall, buff, young stud. (Chuck’s Brain is played by Anthony O. Dalton II.) Chuck’s self-image, like his wife’s, is very different from reality.
If this were a play still in development, I would ask the playwright to give Lois’ Brain more lines. Somewhere in the middle, the play drags a wee bit, and I think it’s because the balance between the four characters goes a teeny bit askew.
However, just when you’re thinking, “Okay, my sides hurt from laughing so hard, but I haven’t laughed in the past little while, so where is all this going?” Lois’s devious, hippie-dippie brother, Gary (Paul Wallace), shows up in a very dramatic way.
The play after that is still about relationship dynamics, but there is more of a story arc. Anyway, at the end, you feel very satisfied. And even after the curtain call, you still need a few moments more to get all of your laughs out of your system before putting on your coat for the ride home.
Unfortunately, then you have to go through that darned no-escape receiving line in the lobby, which is a bit of a downer because being forced to come up with niceties before you have finished enjoying and processing a show always is, but it is just the way they do things at TOTS. I wouldn’t let that darned no-escape receiving line in the lobby keep you from seeing this particular TOTS production.
Because (I’ll say it again) this show is hilarious.
A Few Words about the Design Elements
The comfy, cluttered master bedroom set includes a vanity counter with a sink that works! The set was designed by Jim Trofatter and Thomas Turner, with a wealth of appropriate properties by Therese Burns. Ron Spencer’s lighting design includes some lovely little surprises. His sound design includes a funny mix of love-and-relationship songs pre-show and at intermission. Jeff Hamilton and Therese Burns found or built just-right costumes to fit each character’s personality. I especially loved Lois’s LBD and Chuck’s boxers.
“In Bed with Chuck and Lois” continues on Stage 2 at Theatre on the Square through Saturday, November 28, 2009. Please call John Fullam in the Box Office at 317-685-TOTS(8687) or make your reservations online at www.tots.org.
‘See you at the theatres!
Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com and @IndyTheatre on Twitter.com.