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Jack Wetherall and  Catherine Smitko in Asolo Rep's Morning After Grace

Image: Cliff Roles

Before the curtain rises on Asolo Rep’s production of Morning After Grace, you have time to study Robert Mark Morgan’s set—a convincing representation of a Florida retirement community home, with neutral colors and furnishings inside and doors and windows that admit sunshine and views of subtropical landscaping outside. Would that the action that follows in Carey Crim’s play were always as realistic.

The play opens upon a scene clearly “morning after,” with empty wine glasses on the coffee table and rumpled bedding on the sofa. Also on the sofa: Abigail (Catherine Smitko) and Angus (Jack Wetherall) post-flagrante delicto. (Yes, there is a brief glimpse of Wetherall’s bottom here, so be forewarned!)

It’s obvious they’ve had a fling, all right, and it’s only a matter of minutes before we learn that it happened after a funeral, apparently a hot spot for pickups. Abigail, a recent divorcee tentatively looking for love, is delighted with her experience—until she finds women’s clothing in a hall closet and jumps to the conclusion that Angus is married.

But, as is typical of the kind of TV sitcom where this might happen, she doesn’t immediately give Angus a chance to explain. Rather, Crim’s script allows misunderstandings and surprises to multiply for laughter (if not for easy belief). That’s even more the case when neighbor Ollie (David Alan Anderson) arrives. He knows Abigail, who’s a grief counselor, and since right now Ollie is having his own relationship issues, what better time to stage some role play?

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Smitko and David Alan Anderson

Image: Cliff Roles

 

The three cast members are polished pros, and Peter Amster’s direction lends the early shenanigans panache, albeit there’s something of a forced effect to it all. But it’s not until halfway through that the play offers depth, as the mood, and Paul Miller’s lighting, darken, and we see and hear what real grief looks like.

I don’t want to give too much away here, since Morning After Grace depends heavily on the audience making discoveries at the same time the characters do. Suffice it to say that we have to move past some fairly predictable setups (yes there is a medical marijuana smoking scene) and punch lines before Crim’s play actually touches the heart, as we explore the difficulties—and possibilities—of life and love in the 60s and beyond.

Wetherall, Smitko and Anderson interact easily together, and Wetherall especially demonstrates an ability to shift from light comedy to more down-to-earth emotions and reflections. The audience on opening night responded pretty enthusiastically to the production (which is intermission-less), and it does have its moments. But the first part is more easy TV watching than anything else.

Morning After Grace continues through March 4; for tickets call 351-8000 or visit asolorep.org.

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