by Raphael Badagliacca

What are we saying when we talk?  And what are we not saying?

Multiple Family Dwelling, another world premiere at the New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch, is about the things we are careful not to say in our conversations, and how, inevitably, they all come out.

James (Dustin Charles) and Kelly (Maria Couch) are the parents of an eight-year old girl and the owners of a two-family house with an empty apartment above their own.  The apartment is empty because they have asked their tenant to leave in favor of Stuart (Jared Michael Delaney) and Tia (Dana Brooke) who are on the verge of getting married. Tia is a childhood friend of Kelly’s.  The play opens in the aftermath of the young daughter’s birthday party with the four adults cleaning up, winding down, drinking and talking, which is where the trouble begins.

Stuart’s ex-wife betrayed him so he is hypersensitive to even the slightest hint that such a transgression might happen to him again.  Kelly is not particularly happy about being a landlord in this building in this part of town which is far from upscale, and to her mind, downright dangerous.

A play is made of words in a confined space.  The theater at Long Branch is exceedingly intimate, and as always, the set is constructed in inventive ways. In this case, one space is transformed into two, but the second space may not turn out to be the one you expect, just as the unspoken dialog when it finally emerges is bound to surprise you.

We last saw Jared Michael Delaney as the agoraphobic brother in NJ Rep’s production of Mad Love, quite a different part from the suspicious, anger-prone Stuart of Multiple Family Dwelling.  Life itself casts women in so many different competing roles that it’s only natural that some of those roles rise to the surface, covering up others.  Maria Couch convincingly gives us the dutiful wife concerned for her family, her surroundings, the safety of her child.  Her husband in Dustin Charles’ portrayal seems loosely tethered by contrast, a buoy on the water, rocking back and forth. Dana Brooke offers a character fashioned from internal conflicts long past but not resolved.  Put these four personalities in the same room and ask them to talk, which is what the play does, and eventually they will tell you everything.

Multiple Family Dwelling

Written by James Hindman directed by Alan Souza;  scenic designer, Jessica Parks; lighting designer, Jill Nagle; technical director; Brian P. Snyder; sound designer, Merek Royce Press  costume designer, Patricia E. Doherty; stage manager, Kristin Pfeiffer; assistant stage manager, Adam von Pier; properties, Marisa Procopio; artistic director, SuzAnne Barabas; executive producer, Gabe Barabas.

With: Melissa Estell Bajou, Chrisopher Daftsios, and Dan Grimaldi.

At NJ Repertory Company (179 Broadway, Long Branch,  NJ — 732-229-3166; through April 9.  Thursdays & Fridays 8pm; Saturdays 3pm & 8pm; Sundays at 2pm.