I became a John Kolvenbach fan after seeing the magnificent Orfeo production of LOVE SONG last year. His quirky narratives keep your guessing all the way through and oddball surprises keep you in stitches. Now Merrimack Rep is giving MRS. WHITNEY a lovely whirl (playing through April 8th). Kolvenbach’s sardonic little comedy follows an elegant divorcee “of a certain age” (the gorgeous, sophisticated Dierdre Madigan) as she abandons her quiet, orderly, but boring life in search of her first love, ostensibly, she says, “to confirm his uselessness.”
We learn pretty quickly that he’s no prize. Wife #5 (the wonderfully wacky Rebecca Harris) advises that “he gets better after you’ve left him.” He himself (the charismatic Dennis Parlato) cops to being “broken:” A whiff of conflict and he’s out the door. BUT he’s plenty charming and worst of all, his admissions are totally disarming. Poor Mrs. Whitney: Can she resist? Can her next door neighbor (the offbeat but earnest Joel Colodner) accept her rash new plans when for years he’s been carrying a torch for her? What about her ex’s son (a spunky Jay Ben Markson): Can he risk yet another mother attachment?
And what about her daughter, to my mind MRS. WHITNEY’s only flaw: She’s gone after one mention in the first scene. Wouldn’t you think Mrs. Whitney would tell him about her? Never mind, Kolvenbach gets great mileage from unexpected entrances and abrupt exits and his clever dialogue keeps you entertained. Endless twists keep you laughing. How often do you encounter a refreshing script that can do all that?