This two-hander from Audrey Cefaly is beautifully written, acted, and staged. It doesn’t traffic in grand themes, but it does illuminate very well the complexity of humans and the fears that both hold them back and those in which they take refuge. It offers hope, which is always lovely.
This is a warm, generous show that speaks lightly of forgiveness and friendship and acceptance and love.
The best part was the opportunity to see it in person at their theater on East Street, right off of State Circle, in Annapolis. It felt both daring and like coming home to walk into a theater lobby, and then into a theater. It was a small audience that followed social distancing precautions — distancing by both patrons and the actors from the audience. I was happy to see that everyone was masked and stayed masked during the performance. For this production, and the next one later in the spring/summer, the stage set-up (this is a fixed-seating theatre, but with a stage area that functions as a black box) will remain at the front of the space, much like a traditional theater. In fact, I would say that everybody was so pleased to be back in a theater, we all watched the very deft scene changes almost as hungrily as the show.
“Maytag Virgin” is a domestic drama set in a town in Alabama. A widower, Jack Key (Ben Carr), happens to buy the house next to a widow, Elizabeth Nash (Laura Gayvert) and the two just happen to be middle-aged, high school teachers. They have some baggage, but are also pretty au courant in a number of things. Cefaly knows how to mix the ridiculous with the ordinary and sublime, and her deft comedic touch is on full view. This includes a very funny scene after a night of wine and moonshine when Lizzy comes out and Jack is sleeping on a settee in the yard. She settles into a chair and calls him on her cell from about 10 feet away. Then they proceed to converse. It was just ridiculously funny.
Over the course of a year, the two meet in the back yard. Lizzy hangs out her laundry, and Jack has his Maytag on the back porch. In the beginning, this drives Lizzy mad, both because it’s outside the house and because she can’t understand why anyone would use a dryer. But perspectives can change. We can all see where this play is going and that’s oddly comforting when there’s still so much uncertainty. We just get to sit and enjoy the ride.
Carr and Gayvert have a good chemistry. I wish that her character wasn’t quite so set in her ways — she tends to make pronouncements on how things ought to be — but there’s enough strength and vulnerability that you can see why she piques Jack’s interest. He piques hers by the way he takes her pronouncements pretty calmly, quietly evaluates them and decides whether or not to agree. As they get to know each other, you can see the easiness setting into their relationship. It’s a lovely, adult relationship that is real.
The show is directed by Edd Miller who does a nice job of letting the language dictate the pacing, which moves smoothly. Special kudos to lighting designer John Purnell, who just knocked it out of the park, especially with a rain scene. It was magical. Properties designer Constance Robinson dressed the set with well-thought out accessories which brought out Edd Miller’s (doubling as the set designer) vision of this little patch in a neighborhood. Costume designer Beth Terranova dressed the actors just the way you’d imagine two public high school teachers would.
This is a warm, generous show that speaks lightly of forgiveness and friendship and acceptance and love. It’s been having quite a run in a number of regional theaters for the past few months, and I can understand why. The play is like snuggling up in a blanket around the fire pit and meeting some old friends again.
Running Time: Approximately two hours plus a 15-minute intermission.
Show Advisory: Some adult language.
“Maytag Virgin” runs through April 25, 2021, both in-person and live-streaming, by The Colonial Players of Annapolis, 108 East Street, Annapolis, MD 21401. Box Office 410-268-7373. For more information and tickets, please click here.