It starts with a kiss but ends with a . . . well, not what you might expect as two attractive middle-aged women sit on a cheap-looking sofa in the lobby of a bed-and-breakfast deep in the woods of the Poconos and discuss the esthetic and biological differences between the penis and the clitoris.
Their conversation might have been more amusingly spent discussing the design and function of the unattractive indoor-outdoor setting in which they find themselves courtesy of set designer Susan DeConcini. Any digression from “the importance of the erection,” would insinuate a more surreal experience than intended by playwright Leslie Ayvazian and director Murphy Davis.
Whatever Ayvazian’s intentions are for Carol (played by Ayvazian) and for Jill (June Ballinger), they quickly get sidetracked by the actual experience of being somewhere they would never ordinarily pick to go for a weekend with husbands who apparently had little to say about it.
It seems as if Jill goes with apparent regularity around the world on dangerous treks alone; treks that have Carol wondering if her dear friend hasn’t considered having sex with a guide on such trips, her latest in the Amazon jungle. It soon becomes clear that Carol, who admits to not particularly liking to walk, questions this choice of being in this rustic B &B where they are celebrating Carol’s 60th birthday.
Carol’s husband, Matt (Grant Shaud), quickly figures out how to occupy his time — by walking into the woods alone and throwing stones at a log on a lake. He is pretending that it represents a masculine-defining tribal ritual. Meanwhile Jill’s husband, Dan, has his suspicions aroused when he walks into the lobby as the two women are standing in noticeably close contact.
I’m going to be a spoiler by letting you know that this is not a late-blooming lesbian romance in the making but a rather cuddly little domestic comedy in which two couples, friends for 30 years, have been set up to re-examine their marital bonds and re-explore their friendship — that may demand another kiss but not by whom or with whom you would expect.
It is fortunate indeed that the play has four very fine actors whose personalities appear to be perfectly matched for partnership and are perfectly in synch with the mostly light-hearted, only occasionally heavy-handed, dialogue. Ayvazian, whose best know plays include “Nine Armenians,” “Make Me,” and “High Dive,” is also winning as an actor, and she allows Carol’s latent frustrations and anxieties to surface with both a comical edge and a poignant urgency.
Long time artistic director at Passage Theater Company Ballinger is terrific as the intrepid Jill but becomes emotionally derailed in one incomprehensible instance. A lot of time is given to Jill and Carol as they talk about what it takes for long-lasting relationships to be revitalized, with Carol recognizing that “women gain testosterone and men lose testosterone.”
What is really essential and works beautifully is how Dan and Matt each define their own masculinity and do so in front of Carol and Jill. The play trips itself up by having its characters sound like relics from the stone age that explore their sexuality as if it were 1956 and not 2016.
There is, nevertheless, the invested warmth in their long-time relationship that comes through with an almost endearing naivete. Conflict becomes a moot point very quickly as does the possibility of any real crisis. These may be large flaws in a small play that only brushes the surface of Dan’s question, “What’s going on between the two of you?”
Out of the City, Passage Theater Company, Mill Hill Playhouse, 205 East Front Street, Trenton, through November 20, and Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 3 and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m. $20 to $38. 609-392-0766 or passagetheatre.org.