Janet and Karl are from Indiana. Tom and Marie? New York. They're visiting Italy and whether clashing, or getting along, they are repugnant. In the best comedic sense. The more comedies I see, the more convinced I am of just how tough they are to manage, and These Two Couples Went to Italy (written by Paul Rusconi) is well-conceived, well-sustained, inventive, pleasant and entertaining. Rusconi knows, of course, these travelers are insufferable, and this is what makes the show so hilarious. The action cuts back and forth between the two couples, alone at first. Karl and Janet, who might be spending an hour getting one photograph of a tourist attraction , or Marie and Tom, for example : squabbling over a painting they "accidentally" stole.
When These Two... opens, both couples have been visiting Europe for awhile. They've met before : simultaneously deciding to ditch the other, without realizing they'd been ditched as well. Janet over-thinks and controls everything. Marie is so paranoid about gaining weight, she refuses to eat anything in a country so reliant on carbs. Not that the husbands are much better. Rusconi must have thought long and hard to come up with these four, that seem to embody every bad quality ever demonstrated by American tourists. Who behave as if the world exists solely for their amusement. Instead of the customary, xenophobic depiction of Europeans as cartoony, jabbering cretins, Rusconi has sharply imagined American roles with potential for comedic friction, and set them into motion. Each new scene opens the door to more mishaps and chaos, yet the show doesn't feel contrived.
Director Andy Looney has assembled a sublime cast with Kevin Michael Fuld, Robert San Juan, Rebecca Paige, Julie Phillips and Nathan Amir. Looney and his cast have a feel for the quirkiness of individuals, an intuitive knack for making us cringe just enough to make us laugh. They have an ear for getting the most out of a particular word or turn of phrase. Their choices come from excellent instincts. It's so elating to engage in humor with a narrative. We all acknowledge the necessity of “the willing suspension of disbelief” but so many comedies these days lack any kind of thematic or linear logic. If it's funny enough, we don't care if it makes sense. That works up to a point, but after awhile we get weary of gag machines with no comprehensive shaping or arc. These Two Couples Went to Italy is a splendid night of comedy theatre.
Rover Dramawerks presents These Two Couples Went to Italy, playing June 26th through July 19th, 2014. 221 West Parker Road, Suite 570, Plano, Texas 75023. 972-849-0358. RoverDramawerks.com