The current production at the always intimate NJ Repertory Company in Long Branch is a comedy thriller about intimacy and the lack of it. Contrasts in color tell the story, beginning with another impeccably designed set carefully touched by light – blue and green pastels bathe us in that “this is Paradise” feeling that every visitor to the Caribbean experiences, while the script brings to the stage the dark equivalent of a film noir.
But there’s a twist. We have the usual noir-ish characters – a distressed, attractive woman disenchanted with her husband, the husband himself, and, of course, the detective. Except this time, the intrigue may not lie where we expect it.
Jane Fiske (Wendie Malick) is desperate to find her daughter who disappeared three months ago on the Caribbean island. Her husband Peter (Victor Verhaeghe) is curiously disengaged; Jane feels he has given up hope. Until this point, their fate has rested with detective Roy Hadley (Gary Cole), the island’s one-man police force, who does not seem to be doing anything at all. There’s a lot of drinking and witty repartee full of daggers; a waiter (Biniam Tekola) who takes drink orders plays a peripheral role, or is it central?
A play at NJ Rep always reminds us that there are more people involved in the production than the ones we see. The set extends physically farther back than usual, and the space works curiously to give a feeling of time passing with different types of repetitive events happening in different planes as the story unfolds. Kudos to set designer, Jessica Parks and lighting designer, Jill Nagle.
Richard Dresser’s script is a strong lesson in looking beneath the surface. It makes for an entire audience of detectives, which in a sense, we always are.
By Richard Dresser; directed by Joe Cacaci; set design by Jessica Parks; lighting design by Jill Nagle; sound design by Merek Royce Press ; technical director, Brian Snyder; costume designer, Patricia Doherty; stage manager, Jennifer Tardibuono.
With: Gary Cole; Wendie Malick; Biniam Tekola; Victor Verhaeghe
At NJ Repertory Company (179 Broadway, Long Branch, NJ — 732-229-3166; NJRep.org) through July 19.Thursdays & Fridays 8pm; Saturdays 3pm & 8pm; Sundays at 2pm & 7pm; Select Tuesdays & Wednesdays at 7pm