‘Coming Apart’ in midlife

A longtime marriage is on the rocks in Cambria Center for the Arts’ new production

Special to The TribuneMarch 20, 2014 

The Cambria Center for the Arts Theatre — the former “old grammar school”— has been refurbished with comfortable theater seats and a fine sound system for the Allied Arts production of “Coming Apart” by Fred Carmichael. 

The four-person play, directed by Elaine Fournier, tells the midlife saga of Frances and Colin Kittridge, two writers caught up in their own creative worlds, whose 21-year marriage has gone stale. 

Frances, played by Mary-Ann Maloof, writes romance novels, and Colin (Angelo Procopio) is a syndicated humor columnist in the genre of Dave Barry and Art Buchwald (he wishes). They met in the office of their mutual agent, Sylvia, played by Nancy Green.

As the play opens, Fran and Colin are in the living room of their New York condo. Colin is looking for the newspaper’s crossword puzzle, which Fran silently finds for him. Fran is missing a knitting needle, which Colin steps into another room to retrieve. Neither one has said a word yet. Their routine interaction says it all. But that is about to change.

Fran has been doing some research for her latest book, “How to Survive a Marriage,” and she wants to see what a husband will do when his wife asks for a divorce. She decides to try it on her own husband. 

But as she opens her mouth to say “I want a divorce,” Colin says it first. After a bizarre discussion about dividing things in half and some heavy carping and arguing, they decide, in consultation with their agent Sylvia, to wait six months to finalize the decision. Meanwhile, they continue to live in the condo, but she doesn’t cook for him and both are free to do as they please.

The next segments include flashbacks to when they met, when and who proposed, and their justice-of-the-peace marriage, with each one addressing the audience to recall his or her different memory of events. Scenes jump from past to present, with supertitles of the dates projected above the stage to keep the audience aware of the timeline.

Fran and Colin both come across as self-involved, proud of their own work, but with little respect for each other’s writing, or each other. The play is billed as a romantic comedy, but there’s not much romance. 

The lines have humorous potential, but it’s the sort of dialog that requires exceptional comic talent and timing to translate it into the style of witty repartee of a Neil Simon comedy. The playwright is no Neil Simon, and it would take someone like Alan Alda or Lily Tomlin to make the conversations sparkle. 

The characters in those skillfully delivered comedies come across as spontaneous, cleverly sarcastic, but basically good-natured. Here, they are more like a cranky couple going through a midlife crisis.

The supporting couple is not characterized as very likable either. Agent Sylvia, played well by Green, is a stylish, shrewd businesswoman out for her own interests while trying to keep Fran and Colin together. She is seen by the couple as a match for Bert, Colin’s boozy best friend and drinking buddy, played by Randall Lyon. Sylvia and Bert are set up to meet and marry, but they are already a jump ahead of the matchmakers.

The set, Fran and Colin’s living room, is enhanced with some fine local paintings, reflecting Cambria’s Allied Arts mission of visual and theater arts. 

A vital component of The Cambria Center for the Arts is the art gallery in the halls of the building. During the run of this play Jeanette Wolff is the featured artist, with an elegant and eclectic display of her prolific multimedia work.

IF YOU GO

"Coming Apart"
7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through April 6
Cambria Center for the Arts Theater, 1350 Main St., Cambria
$20, $15 for CCA members, $5 for students
800-838-3006 or www.brownpapertickets.com

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