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Money can't buy happiness _ or smarts _ in Molly Moroney's play 'Kithless in Paradise'
NEW YORK (AP) ' There's no doubt that it's fun to laugh at rich people saying ignorant things, and mocking the wealthy is a longtime sport for playwrights. Molly Moroney has included plenty of such mockery in her new comedy about super-wealthy Americans, whose shallow, secure lives are contrasted with the national economic crisis and the genuine tragedy of one of their old friends.
Moroney's play about privileged people, carelessly enjoying the good life in America, is titled "Kithless in Paradise." The well-acted world premiere, which opened Tuesday night off-Broadway at the Lion Theatre at Theatre Row, is often amusing yet somehow superficial, like its characters.
Six experienced cast members create a believable set of wealthy friends, despite some cardboard stereotyping by the author, in which relationships of several couples and old schoolmates are tested by long-held resentments.
The juxtaposition of shallow banter with genuine emotions and tragedies can be unexpectedly jarring, but Moroney has a knack for providing natural-sounding quips and dialogue that keeps things lively. Director Niki Flacks keeps the actors moving easily around the small stage and the conversation flowing, along with the increasing, liquor-fueled tension.
The premise is that two very wealthy, long-married couples are enjoying their annual four-day get-together, in post-economic-bust 2009 San Francisco. The party is hosted by multimillionaire-by-inheritance Tim McCall (a warm, likable portrayal by David Wirth) and his wife Janice (Liz Forst, briskly humorous.) Their good friends the Barretts, hedge fund manager Phil (Brit Herring, bristling with his character's ability to hold grudges) and his shopaholic wife Polly (Tracy Newirth, nicely airheaded), have flown in from Dallas for the bacchanalia.
A third couple is included at the dinner party: successful yet bitter Ken Loring (Bob Manus) went to high school with the other two men. But the unpleasant Ken has a giant chip on his shoulder, needling his old friends and their wives and trying to pit them against one another. Worst of all, Sandy Loring (a brave performance by Jill Melanie Wirth), who isn't that well-known by the others, announces she's dying of leukemia and feeling quite unwell.
Incongruously, Sandy's weak jokes about death and her obsession with medical issues are handled as if for laughs. The others express sympathy toward her, yet continue to drink, eat and joke all around her, almost as if she were isolated in a bubble. Wirth makes Sandy ditzy and likable, but her terminal illness is an unfunny conceit.
In the second act, Ken is allowed to show some humanity, but he soon reverts to type, angrily revealing secrets or lies that he hopes will drive a wedge among the four good friends, and perhaps ruin a marriage. Other secrets are revealed and resolved, some serious and some rather silly, and the play ends on a resoundingly cheerful note. But if you're sensitive about the current economy or jobless situation, it will be difficult to care about the problems of these insular moneyed types, no matter how amusing their idle chit-chat.