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Wednesday, April 27,2011

Great expectations

Purple Rose’s ’Some Couples May...’ takes on a touchy topic with sensitivity, humor and convincing performances

by Tom Helma


“Some Couples May…” the latest social commentary stage play written by Carey Crim, addresses a specific demographic niche — young married couples experiencing the trauma of infertility.

Now playing at the Purple Rose Theater, “Couples” takes the audience through the early moments of high expectations that couples have when first embracing the idea of pregnancy and parenthood, then through the heartbreak of hopelessness that ensues when nothing whatsoever happens.

Rhiannon Ragland and Bill Simmons portray the hapless, upscale Emily and David, who deferred pregnancy until their mid-30s to focus first on career success and economic security.

An ample maple-colored converted urban loft-space (designed by Vincent Mountain and lighted by Dana White with a splash of honey-colored pumpkin-orange sunset glow) suggests a lifestyle of comfort and simple opulence.

When a simple pregnancy test turns out negative, the audience begins to realize the emotional roller coaster this couple is about to experience.

Bill’s parents and his brother and sister-in-law turn out to be anything but supportive as they throw out every insensitive comment known to humankind.

Ragland’s Emily is hyper-determined to try every option, an ultimately exhausting process. Ragland and Simmons are a matched pair of opposites in their roles: Ragland displays a wide sweep of emotions while Simmons is cool, calm and disturbingly detached throughout.

Jim Porterfield as Bill’s father, Bernie, stands out above other well-played supporting characters, a crusty curmudgeon who says what he means and means what he says.

A bizarre subplot involving Isabel, a so-called “dominatrix therapist” (portrayed sensitively by Aphrodite Nikolovski) stretches the imagination, yet it is oddly one of the most compassionate moments of the play, and a dream sequence is performed as vividly as what one might experience in a real dream. Kudos to director Guy Sanville for both this scene and for the overall stage movement.

The insinuating, evocative musical selections of sound designer Quintessa Gallinat, coupled with White’s lighting shifts, lead the audience in and out of both scene changes and mood shifts.

“Couples,” while targeting an experience specific only to some young couples, manages to do so in a manner that allows a larger audience to feel an empathic compassion.

’Some Couples May...’

Purple Rose Theatre 137 Park St., Chelsea Through May 28 8 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 3 p.m. matinees Wednesdays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. matinees Sundays; special 8 p.m. show Tuesday, May 24 $25-$40 (734) 433-7673 www.purplerosetheatre.org


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