Scenes from an Adultery Entertainment Lite (3.5 Stars)

*Scenes From An Adultery, written by Ronan Noone, directed by Bridget Kathleen O’Leary, New Repertory Theatre, 321 Arsenal Street, Watertown through May 17.*

It’s hard not to become immediately engaged with a play that begins with a conversation between a married couple, Tony and Lisa, and their single friend, Gasper, about a foot long penis. Although all of them are in their forties, Gasper is the provocateur, the bachelor with a series of failed relationships who seems on the prowl for chinks in the armor of his friends’ marriages. It is Gasper who believes that the wife of their good friend Dean is having an affair, and the alleged infidelity of someone so close seeps through everyone’s emotions, causing mistrust and bad behavior. Who, if anyone, can you confide in? Once a thing is said, can it be unsaid?

The three actors, who carry the 75-minute play, are all very credible and entertaining. Ciaran Crawford, as Gasper, plays the role of bachelor with a kind of suppressed glee; he’s happy to project the image of himself as the lonely single man. Peter Stray, as Tony, exhibits a concentrated, manic anxiety about his marriage, his friends’ marriage, the sexual escapades of the males in his life. As Lisa, Leda Uberbacher is calm and focused, even at her angriest. The problem is, they don’t have a lot to work with in terms of the material. It’s funny, sort of, with free flowing dialogue, but ultimately, not particularly profound.

*Scenes From An Adultery* takes place in Ireland, and to that end, it is a distinctly Irish play. The drinking that takes place in every scene is staggering, at least to my sensibilities. The way the untruths escalate, combined with the characters’ disproportionate reactions to seemingly minor episodes made me think that perhaps the liquor had stunted their abilities to behave reasonably. The obsession with sex, who was cheating on who, all seemed to belong to people much younger than those who had managed to reach 40. The whole thing reminded me of a time in my twenties when I was heavily involved with a man from Belfast. He and his crowd drank a lot, slept around a lot, and expected forgiveness, after lots of drama. In the end, I just didn’t find it very interesting.

Despite Ronan Noone’s sharp, funny, and wonderfully paced dialogue, it’s hard to care about the characters, when they’re so careless with themselves and the people who love them. Bridget Kathleen O’Leary’s brisk direction keeps the action moving towards its woebegone conclusion. “Was this a story that needed to be told?” my companion asked, then answering her own question, “I don’t think it did.”

Scenic designer Janie E. Howland’s set is flexible, serving as Tony and Lisa’s apartment as well as the pub, with help from Christopher Brusberg’s excellent lighting design.