Hipp's ‘Sirens' offers up good-natured comedy


“Sirens,” features, from left, Michael Crider as Sam, Nell Page as Rose, and Filipe Valle Costa as Richard, through Feb. 5 at the Hippodrome Theatre.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 12:22 p.m.

What pitfalls should be avoided in a long-lasting marriage? There's the seven-year itch, when a husband gets his first taste of wanderlust. There's the mid-life crisis, when husbands go off to the car dealer and emerge driving a snappy red convertible (or, maybe, sporting a new trophy wife to go with it?) And for those who make it that far, there's the 25th wedding anniversary cruise in foreign seas.

Facts

‘Sirens'

What: Comedic tale of keeping love alive, with a mythological twist.
When: 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 5 and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 5
Where: Hippodrome Theatre, 25 SE Second Place
Tickets: $27-$32, $20 for seniors and military personnel, $12 students
Info: 375-4477 or thehipp.org.

That 25th anniversary cruise is the setting for Deborah Zoe Laufer's funny new play, “Sirens,” at The Hippodrome. Actually, on Kent Barrett's pristine blue-and-white geometrically tailored set, you could be wherever the playwright takes you, but the sea is very much home here. The sea is where Sam and Rose spend their 25th wedding anniversary with disastrous results, as Sam, lured by the music of those Sirens, first heard centuries ago in Homer's “The Odyssey,” jumps overboard to follow their song.

Laufer has taken the serious theme of marriage monotony between a long-married couple and turned it into a light-hearted comedy in which each of the partners takes a turn in quest of lost youth and, ultimately, looks in the mirror at that same old face. Discouraging? Not at all, especially with the actors Lauren Caldwell has directed so skillfully on The Hipp's stage.

The best news of the evening is that Nell Page is back at The Hipp playing middle-aged Rose, knitting store owner, mother of a grown son about to be married, and wife of Sam, who wrote a song about her when they were young and newly in love. “Rose Adele,”as the song is called, is not just any of your tin-pan-alley knock-offs. It's a mega hit — so much so that it has supported Sam and Rose for these many years. As played by Page, Rose is a 50-something sprite, full of vitality and raring to go. Laufer could have written the role as a stereotypical nagging wife, but Page will have none of that.

Sam, on the other hand, is the stereotypical middle-aged man, looking for passion to ignite his life again. He loves Rose, but not with that breathless excitement of love's first blush. It was that first blush that inspired him to write his mega hit, “Rose Adele.” Since then, Sam has not been able to produce a song that matches it. He turns to Facebook and “friends” young women, trying to recapture that old feeling of passion. When Rose discovers he's actually met some of these women (“Only for coffee and nothing happened,” Sam protests) she declares their marriage is over.

While she's talking and their cruise ship is sailing along, Sam suddenly hears the sound of the Sirens' call. Thinking, “They're playing my song,” he jumps ship and lands on an island with a pretty young thing who has no interest in Sam, as the gods have given her a “box with numbers” which occupies all the small space in her brain. She only sings when a ship comes near in order to lure men to their death. Sam soon realizes that youth and passion are not what they're cracked up to be. When the siren's “box” runs out of batteries, he offers to replenish it for a trip home to Rose. Michael Crider is sweetly sympathetic as the bumbling, humbled Sam, and Lauren Nordvig, in Marilyn Wall's fairytale, sea-nymph costume, is suitably vacant and bored.

When Sam returns, is Rose waiting for him with open arms? Not a chance — she has arranged a date with Richard, the cute boy she liked in high school. As Sam re-enters their apartment, she is in the process of dressing for her date.It's worth the price of admission just to see Nell Page deck herself out in Wall's youthful, flamboyant clothes, from her hair ornament to her high boots. The expressions on Sam's face, from bemused to helpful to agog, say it all.

Rose's date with Richard (played by a smarmy Filipe Valle Costa) turns out about as well as Sam's sojourn with the siren. However, it does serve to give Sam his song and it's nothing like “There's No Place Like Home” or “Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog” (Substitute “Richard” for “Jeremiah”) The ensuring reconciliation is sweet and tender.

Laufer's play, which sparkles with humor and witty dialogue in the first act, tends to sag in the second, possibly because there is no turning point, no crisis for Sam when he's on the island. He simply misses Rose, says so, and leaves. The siren's song, which has lured centuries of men to their doom, isn't enough here. But credit Paul Crider with the original composition and Matthew Callahan with original sound design. The play is beautifully lighted by Robert P. Robins.

The Hipp's “Sirens” gives audiences an evening of fun and good-natured comedy. Married or single, it will make you laugh and may even send you on a search for your own song.

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