From L to R - Rachel Jones, Sean Weil, Brian Pracht
Photo Credit: Jill Treadwell

From L to R - Patrick Davin, Gloria M. Buccino
Photo Credit: Jill Treadwel




The Journal News
Last tango in Queens
March 26, 2009

Meet the desperate housewives of Ozone Park, breathing fire and failure in Howard Meyer's double helping of neighborhood sex farce, "Cherrie & Jerry" at Pleasantville's Axial Theatre.

Meyer wrote "Cherrie" for Axial's first season. "Jerry" came four years later as a companion piece. He directs them, together for the first time as part of Axial's 10th anniversary.

The husbands here are as desperate, of course. They just expect less.

Imagine if your high-school friends were unable to escape and had to create their own society populated by the nerd, the jock, the convenient boyfriend, the investment-minded girlfriend, the one most likely to succeed as a hairdresser and - at the center of it all - the girl who developed first.

There but for the grace of God, eh? Wait a minute. There's no way on God's green earth that could ever happen to me.

If you believe that, you can relax and laugh the night away. If not, you'll see Meyer's very adult comedy as a guide to "how did I wind up in this place."

Cherrie and her husband Jerry haven't had physical communion within the cathedral of marriage for three years. Don Green and his wife Evelyn are two years into their own run of rolling over and saying good night.

In the first minute - maybe a little less - Cherrie bursts into a motel-like apartment, pre-stripped for action. Don follows, as if shot from a cannon, throwing himself atop Cherrie (and a slick purple bedspread, part of designer Jacquelyn D. Marolt's simple and effective set) with what may be theater's shortest fuse.

Did he forget to take off his pants or was he just happy to see her? More to the point: How the the nerd and the hottie set up this stolen moment?

Don wants to be faithful to his Evelyn even while conquering the Mount Everest of Ozone Park lust. Cherrie just wants. She even wants nice-guy Don, though she has hedged her bet and invited sports-star turned supermarket manager Bruce O'Connor to this afternoon's party.

O'Connor, who has wanted Cherrie since forever, knows how to treat a woman. He arrives with a 20-ounce Bud, Triskets and aerosol cheese spread. For before or after, he doesn't much care.

The second act, set at the same time in Cherrie and Jerry's living room, brings us the news that the dismissed spouses have had no trouble enjoying each other's company. The straw that stirs this drink to a froth - with word of what's going on in Act I - is Denise LaPuda, hairdresser and part-time psychic. Actually, she's more like a small Cuisinart set on high.

Civilization as they know it splinters, shreds and is puréed. Things will never be the same in Ozone Park.

The first-act trio features three well-matched actors from the Axial company.

Rachel Ann Jones, who directed the original run of "Cherrie," finds her character's pathetic center and makes us care, just a little. Brian Pracht as Don and Sean Weil as Bruce are two sides of the same high-school coin but you believe it when they bond and when they go their separate ways.

The threesome in "Jerry" is played at a higher decibel level - we know the stakes, we don't know who'll wind up with who. These are three lost souls; call them flailers at life.

Clearly, Patrick Davin's Jerry overachieved with Cherrie. There is not much subtlety here - his bluster is firmly planted in quicksand - but he crumbles well. Jess Erick as Evelyn and Gloria M. Buccino as a most authentic Denise are loud and hard, needy and just a little scary.

"Cherrie & Jerry" plays best for audiences with a few years on them. The language is explicit. The situations are adult. Think of it as David Mamet writing the John Adams High School alumni newsletter. Speak your emotion through that stunted vocabulary long enough and the words can be funny, too.

That bravado does not hide the truth that our six 30-somethings are just plain scared that they'll wind up alone. Amid all the shouting and panic, perhaps that's what keeps them in Queens in the first place.

And with that, Meyer, who also directed, is dead-on.