The American sex farce Things You Shouldn’t Say Past Midnight begins in the throes of passion, when what would normally just be spontaneous and embarrassing bedroom barking escalates suddenly to a singular anti-Semite slur.
What puts an end to the nocturnal activity leads to a discussion for the rest of the play on what is proper to blurt out or not blurt out while in such ecstasy. Does the intimacy provide a space where such innermost thoughts can suddenly emerge? Or should such things never be said out loud, particularly among those who are supposed to be lovers?
As they ponder all of that, you might also want to ask whether such a thing should be said in a play — but we wouldn’t want the 90 minutes to run much longer.
…the precision give and take of a sitcom, and when director Colin Smith coaxes the solid cast into just the right rhythms, it’s as good as any of them, though with its subject matter, a good deal more adult…
The discussion that follows between the lovers Ben and Nancy would otherwise be one you’d you might see on “Everybody Loves Raymond” or “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (though it never quite reaches that level).
That’s because playwright Peter Ackerman, whose chief credits are the three animated “Ice Age” movies, is well schooled in the patter of comedy (and the specific voice of Ray Romano, as a matter of fact).
Things You Shouldn’t Say Past Midnight has the precision give and take of a sitcom, and when director Colin Smith coaxes the solid cast into just the right rhythms, it’s as good as any of them, though with its subject matter, a good deal more adult.
Caroline Wolfson does a good job in her tough role – trying to explain herself and also admitting that dating a Jew is a little exciting.
As Ben, Michael Innocenti, an executive at the Keegan and resident company member who also designed the three-level set, is very good at being hurt but also in expressing the right blank expression to extend the laughs.
Things develop to two other bedrooms as the work continues. Nancy goes over to her friend Grace’s place, where she is entertaining someone she’s known for just five days, a hit man named Gene. She just wants sex out of the relationship; he wants a bit more. In the roles Allison Corke and Peter Finnegan are undercut only by the premise – why make him a hit man when it would be a little more believable if his occupation was cop?
A third bedroom gets involved when Grace calls her therapist (and Gene’s brother, who set them up), Mark. In his role Kevin Hasser is not unhappy at getting the call for advice at 3 a.m., creating a phone three-way nobody is expecting.
But it is his partner, played by Timothy H. Lynch who gets the biggest laughs of everybody by hitting his lines a little harder – and holding for the laughs. It may be because he’s the oldest of the cast and has experience in comedy.
Timing is the main thing to keep this ball rolling, and the Keegan troupe mostly keeps it. Anything that falters with it would make for just a series of annoying phone calls in the middle of the night.
The fact that DirecTV is making an original 10-episode comedy series based on the play makes sense. It’s almost a ready-made adult sitcom. To stretch it out, though, they’ll have to add a few more couples and a few more calls. But if they’re still casting, the Keegan Theatre troupe wouldn’t be bad at all.
Running Time: Ninety minutes, no intermission.
Advisory: Begins with sex and dependent on adult language.
Things You Shouldn’t Say Past Midnight continues at the Keegan Theatre , 1745 Church Street NW, Washington, D.C. Call 703-892-0202 or online.