To open its 21st season Off-Broadstreet Theatre has chosen “At First Sight,” a play by Anne Pie first produced in 1998. “At First Sight” is perhaps best described as a play about relationships, in this case the interactions of the members of a dysfunctional family in which a drastic change in the leading character’s situation reveals to us the true nature of the family dynamics. The play is set in Hollywood. Julia Goldman, a 51-year-old who has been widowed for two years, is financially comfortable and content with her life. But a chance encounter with a man she does not know who sweeps her off her feet changes that life drastically. She leaves the man before learning his name, so when, much to her (and her doctor’s) surprise, she discovers she is pregnant, she is left with a major dilemma. Should she try to find the man? For that matter, should she continue to carry the child?
Both her grown children live in the area, and she asks them to come over so she can tell them the news. The son, who is in the film industry, is particularly self-absorbed and sees the news in terms of how it might embarrass him, with apparently no concern for what his mother might be feeling. The daughter is a bit more in touch with others and tries to shut her brother up when he is at his most obnoxious. She would prefer to deal with this problem efficiently so she can get back to work.
Julia’s sister, Verna, an overbearing busybody who has been married four times and is about to be married yet again, sets out to track down the missing lover. She is successful, but having made it possible for Julia and her mysterious lover to reunite, she is not willing to step out of the limelight and let her sister be the center of attention.
Half the scenes take place in Julia’s Hollywood home, but the play opens with a scene that remains mysterious until well into the play. We are at a radio station and a conservative senator is being interviewed. She has an obsession about the flies in the room, but we have no idea what this scene has to do with the rest of the play until well past the half-way point. The senator herself does not reappear until the second act, by which time we have learned that she is the lover’s mother. We also find out by the end that she is resigning her senate seat and starting a national campaign to wipe out flies.
Most of the actors in “At First Sight” are Off-Broadstreet veterans. The daughter is Alison Quaroli’s sixth OBT role. Brady Dunbar Niederer plays the obnoxious son, his second stint at OBT — he and Quaroli were both in last winter’s Alan Ayckbourn farce “Relatively Speaking” — and he certainly succeeds in turning the audience against him. Verna is played by Gerry Martin, Julia by Terri Sturtevant. The two newcomers are Jo Page, playing the senator, and George Agalias, who has an impressive list of Off-Broadway and regional credits, playing Philip, the mysterious lover.
Robert and Julia Thick have produced “At First Sight,” and Thick has again designed the show, providing, as usual, an attractive and serviceable if somewhat familiar set. He also takes the part of the radio reporter interviewing the senator in the first scene. OBT veterans may remember director Michael Lawrence as part of the cast of “Johnny Guitar.” Lawrence is a specialist in regional, educational, and community theater. Ann Raymond is again the costume designer, and as Off- Broadstreet patrons have come to expect, her costumes do their job without trying to steal the show.
“At First Sight” is Off-Broadstreet’s 201st production. The Thicks have announced that there will be a 24th anniversary celebration sometime during the run. Although “At First Sight” may be a weaker play than the usual Off- Broadstreet fare, the Thicks have once again provided their audience with an entertaining evening.
— Barbara Westergaard
At First Sight, through Saturday, May 17, Off-Broadstreet Theater, 5 South Greenwood Avenue, Hopewell, www.off-broadstreet.com. Comedy. $27.50 to $29.50. 609-466-2766.