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Off-Off-Broadway Review

To Love and to Cherish

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To Love and to Cherish
The revelations pile up in Gene Ruffini's "To Love and to Cherish," but they're only revelatory to his assorted miserable husbands and wives; the audience has spotted them from the very beginning.

Reunited for the birthday of matriarch Joan (Thesa Loving), siblings Don (Andrew Langton), Michael (Jake Green), and Carla (Bethany Braun) all show up with significant others and neuroses in tow. Carla announces that she's gay in the same breath that she introduces her fiancée (Kimberlee Walker). Dilettante actor and poet Michael is totally dependent on the largesse and connections of their writer father (Bruce Colbert) and is almost smugly happy with his pregnant wife, Susan (Kelly Campbell). And Don is aggressively bitter toward them all, but especially to his estranged wife, Elysse (Jessica Pohly). Over the course of one very long night, Don tattles all the family secrets, only to find himself politely but thoroughly ignored.

Luckily, Langton is a blast of TNT surrounded by a bunch of soggy fuses. He positively sparkles as Don takes to task first one, then another of his extended family, giggling at the mayhem he creates. The rest of the cast has been given little to do other than react, but most of them sport the wooden expressions of department-store mannequins until they hear their cues, at which point they all spring to life. Pohly tries hardest to match Langton but comes across as merely shrill, bombarding Don's family with tales of his infidelities and lack of sexual prowess. And Loving is simply too young for her role, looking just a few years older than Langton.

By the time Don finally does some "truth tellin' " (to quote "August: Osage County," the latest template for family dysfunction), it all seems a tad too little, too late. Director Jess Zweiman and the cast haven't done much to make us like anyone on stage, so the havoc Don tries to wreak never stirs the audience to anything resembling outrage. Nothing will ever shake these complacent, contented couples from the lies they tell one another in order to live, not even a fiery truth-teller like Don. Or a fiery performer like Langton.

Presented by and at Theater for the New City,
155 First Ave., NYC.Sept. 320. Thu.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.(212) 352-3101, (866) 811-4111, or www.theaterforthenewcity.net.

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