A divorced couple is drawn back together by tragedy in a dramedy whose surface remains too untroubled.
William Donnelly's 2010 play, receiving its Midwest premiere under the direction of Kimberly Senior, is a love triangle of sorts between a long-divorced couple and the ex-wife's new husband. But Design for Living this ain't. The occasion of the threesome's meeting is the memorial service for the estranged daughter of the formerly married Edward (Stef Tovar) and Rebecca (Lia Mortensen), who has apparently committed suicide after a long struggle with mental illness.
The play opens on a naturally awkward beer summit between Edward and Roger (Raymond Fox), Rebecca's husband of about a year. Roger, whose comically obliging nature seems to be a manifestation of his Englishness, rambles on to fill space in the absence of the woman who connects them, while Edward tries to smooth things over on the phone with a disgruntled girlfriend.
When Rebecca arrives, she and Edward seem surprised at how easily they fall back into old rhythms. When she shows up at Edward's hotel room after putting her conveniently drunk husband to bed to suggest going out for dinner, it's little surprise they never make it to a restaurant.
Donnelly's play has some smart observations about grief, particularly about the ways it can guiltily intermingle with the relief of obtaining final closure on a difficult relationship. And for the attendant waves of emotion to at least temporarily rekindle old intimacy between Rebecca and Edward feels plausible. But there's something surfacey about the proceedings, with the former couple so readily accessing and articulating their feelings about their daughter and each other as to feel rehearsed. You end up feeling mostly bad for Roger, the stand-up guy left in the wake of circumstances.
Route 66 Theatre Company at Greenhouse Theater Center. By William Donnelly. Directed by Kimberly Senior. With Stef Tovar, Lia Mortensen, Raymond Fox. Running time: 1hr 20mins; no intermission.