"Moving Mountains,” currently at the Off-Broadstreet Theater in Hopewell, was especially selected by the 28- year-old company to lighten the winter doldrums.
The play is one of the last works by prolific American dramatist and screenplay writer Lawrence Roman. Born in Jersey City in 1921, Roman’s work includes the 1953 film “Vice Squad” (starring Edward G. Robinson and Paulette Goddard) , a 1993 Peabody-Award-winning teleplay “The Ernest Green Story” (following the life of one of the African American students involved with the integration of Little Rock High School) , and several plays written between 2000 and 2008, the year he died.
However, he may be best known as the author and film adaptation of the hit 1960 Broadway show “Under the Yum Yum Tree” and writer for the film adaptation of “Paper Tiger,” participatory journalist George Plimpton’s 1963 account of training as a quarterback with the Detroit Tigers.
“Moving Mountains,” published two years after the author’s death, is a bedroom farce with a twist. It deals with the dating scene in a community near the beach in southern California; what makes the scene unusual is that more than half the characters are in their sixties.
Charlie, played by Steve Decker, is involved with several women and is thoroughly enjoying his life of more or less full-time dalliance. We meet him in his condominium in Santa Monica, California, which, no surprise to this play genre, is well endowed with doors. One of them leads to a sauna within his apartment. The sauna is a favorite hiding place when one of the characters is trying to escape a difficult encounter, and what do you know, more than one person at a time often ends up there.
One of Charlie’s attachments is Gwen, played by Marilyn Licciardello, whose main joy in life is dancing. In sharp contrast to Gwen, however, is another woman in Charlie’s world, Harriet, a self-described dominatrix. Harriet provides Off-Broadstreet regulars with a rare opportunity to see Julie Thick perform on stage. For the few locals not familiar with Off-Broadstreet, I should mention that Julie Thick and her husband, Bob Thick, run the theater.
Plot complications develop as Charlie hopes to include Polly, a woman he has just met, in his circle, but Polly, played by Elaine Wallace, has her heart set on Marc (Ryan Diminick), a boy toy in an airlines uniform. Others entering Charlie’s world include his dismayed daughter, Elaine (played by Vicky Czarnik), and Polly’s financial advisor son (Patrick Albenesius).
Audiences should not expect deep thought from “Moving Mountains,” but they will probably be amused by some snappy lines. Marcel Proust is credited with the insight that explains how you can tell that someone hates money — “That’s why he spends it so fast.” We are warned not to approach a problem when it’s small; do it the way the government does and wait until it gets too big to handle. Further wisdom includes the lines “He’s a doctor. He knows everything,” and someone is characterized as being foolish enough to walk under seagulls without a hat.
Robert Thick has again brought his usual directorial skills to the production. The action moves along briskly in as logical a manner as one can expect in a bedroom farce. He has also served as designer, particularly important in a doors farce, where the structure and design of the set have crucial roles to play.
Ann Raymond, another Off-Broadstreet regular, designed the costumes. Judging what the actors display, she must have had a ball. She has certainly provided some pleasant surprises for the audience. Harriet’s first outfit is supremely silly, and Polly’s final costume — an elegant ball gown — is perhaps the most striking example of the pleasant surprises.
Moving Mountains, Off-Broadstreet Theater, 5 South Broad Street, Hopewell. Continues through Saturday, February 9, with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. $27 to $31.50. 609-466-2766 or www.off-broadstreet.com.