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|"For richer, for poorer -- but can they resist temptation?"
'On The Aisle' Theater Review of "6 Rms Riv Vu"
by David Hale, The Fresno Bee, July 1991
Say you're married, or thinking about it. You probably can't imagine "fooling around," but what if the opportunity presented itself? Would you be able to resist?
That's the naughty uncertainty behind "6 Rms Riv Vu," the curtain-raiser in Fresno City College's annual Summer Theater Festival.
Amy Rider as Anne Miller, Nate Butler as Paul Friedman in "6 Rms Riv Vu."
|This is nothing hot and heavy. The play, by Bob Randall, is in the tradition of the Jean Kerr-Neil Simon romantic comedy. Which is to say, it treats a serious human predicament lightly, teasing us with waves of funny, quick-witted dialogue and ultimately arriving at a denouement most theater-goers will find agreeable.
As important, the production offers us the opportunity to participate in a rare experience -- the discovery of fresh talent in our midst.
In this case, the reward was Amy Rider as The Girl and Nate Butler as The Boy. They presented, in their first leading roles at the school, performances that were surprisingly secure and polished and charged with youthful energy.
"6 Rms Riv Vu" is classified-advertisement jargon for an apartment with six rooms and a river view. Rider and Butler, sophisticated urbanites presumably in their early 30s, meet by chance in a vacant apartment both want to rent to house their growing families.
The plot revolves around how the pair, both decent types, copes when they are accidentally locked in the place and find themselves unable to attract attention to their plight. It will surprise no one when they discover they have much in common, and that instantaneous romance blooms -- to the surprise, delight and guilt of both. Can this affair be saved? Or will the traditional middle-class values that both share (and mock) kick in and restore reality? You can probably guess.
Rider is downright adorable as Anne Miller, playing a rather innocent but bright and capable person, with the air of a metropolitan sophisticate disguising a girlish helter-skelter personality.
Butler shows himself to be an expressive actor, willing to take risks. We see his Paul Friedman progress, presumably under the spell of Anne, opening up emotionally to exhibit a more venturesome, vulnerable self.
The actors are most impressive when they banter, and they are quite convincing as Anne and Paul appear to find in each other's "newness" a delicious possibility of freedom from the familiar routines and burdens of their real lives.
The mystery is how two performers with such scant experience manage to convey so much assurance on stage. It's as if they had been tutoring for months with director Carolyn Robertson to be ready for their opportunity. Both project like mad. My bet is that Robertson will rein in some of that high energy. Sustained over an hour and a half, it was more than is comfortable in so intimate a setting.
As adroit as they are, and as realistic as their verbal sparring seems, the act seldom rose above the level of a Performance. The denouement, for instance, was a dramatic letdown. After all that romantic desire running like crazy, would the lovers resign themselves to reality with scarcely a pause, or protest, for throat-catching regret?
Of the supporting cast, Clemmens Cochius [sic] was an amusing, almost wordless paragon of lassitude as the pot-smoking "super" of the apartment house. John Rothschild was the epitome of the self-absorbed, narcissistic male as Anne's husband, and Allison Frost, as Paul's wife, seemed his perfect opposite.
Linda Hummel-Quinn was funny and obnoxious as the inevitable nosy senior citizen from across the hall, as were Shannon Fuller and Jeff Womack, also apartment hunters, who came across like nouveau riche hippies.
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