You Love That I'm Not Your Wife

by Les Spindle

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday September 23, 2014

Amanda Rae Troisi, Carrie Schroeder, Vanessa Mesia and David Pinson
Amanda Rae Troisi, Carrie Schroeder, Vanessa Mesia and David Pinson  (Source:Ed Krieger)

A new theater group, the Fringe Theatre Company in North Hollywood, offers the premiere of an ensemble play set in contemporary L.A. Writer-director Joanne Mosconi's "You Love That I'm Not Your Wife" is a multi-character battle-of-the-sexes comedy in which various couples and potential couples face myriad challenges in starting and/or solidifying relationships.

The gradually interweaving stories eschew plot in favor of episodes that chart the jealousies, insecurities, human foibles and yes-eventually even admirable qualities-of characters who are hoping to form lasting bonds, often against the odds. Some are drawn to the allure of Tinseltown, while falling prey to its potential pitfalls.

In a bare-bones staging featuring no-frills set elements and rudimentary lighting, the focus is on the characters. Amid the somewhat diffuse script, the production's strongest asset is its generally solid cast.

Most of the key story elements are initially introduced one at a time during the first act scenes. Suave Continental lady-killer Tony Cicarelli (Blake Boyd) romances the smitten Marie (Amanda Rae Troisi) at a love nest in Italy, but his sincerity becomes suspect. Outspoken Lynn (Vanessa Mesia) is disenchanted with the sexual apathy of her distracted and emotionally distant hubby George (David Pinson), an aspiring screenwriter, and she resents the lack of children in their stale marriage.

Outspoken Lynn (Vanessa Mesia) is disenchanted with the sexual apathy of her distracted and emotionally distant hubby George (David Pinson), an aspiring screenwriter, and she resents the lack of children in their stale marriage.

Naïve Sofie (Carrie Schroeder) becomes disenchanted with her controlling elder boyfriend/benefactor Dan (Paul Thomas Arnold), who wants to move their sexual experiences to new frontiers. Sexually frisky Johnny (Michael Galante) and his main squeeze Nikki (Chelsea Blechman) are beginning to seem less compatible than they originally thought. Two late-arriving supporting characters (Charlotte Ellen Price as Heather and Rashad Davis as a horny hustler) are introduced in the second act party scene.

The relatively subdued first act turns into a boisterous free-for-all in the subsequent soiree, as secrets are exposed and the decibel level accelerates. Much of it is amusing, but the action and dialogue are not always well focused, sometimes becoming more strident than entertaining. Mosconi might do well to tone down the sitcom shrillness and better assimilate the multiple plot threads if she plans to refine the script in future renditions.

Two ill-advised instances of unnecessary raunchiness are curiously inserted right before the end of the play. They feel out of place and detract from the playwright's subsequent attempt at a heartwarming conclusion to her glimpse at the fall and rise of wannabe movers and shakers. The two distasteful episodes generate the sort of guffaws one might hear at a stag party, but clash with the overall sensibility of this effort.

The performances are generally palatable and credible, with the best efforts coming from Mesia and her empathetic desperate housewife, Boyd as the smooth-talking Romeo with a suppressed vulnerability, Arnold as the aging blowhard stud, and Pinson in an understated portrait of marital ennui-sort of an early midlife crisis. That's amore.

"You Love That I'm Not Your Wife" runs through Oct. 5 at the Avery Schreiber Playhouse, 4934 Lankershim Blvd., in North Hollywood. For tickets or information, visit fringetheatrecompany.com