Why do fools fall in love? How do people find each other? These questions permeate Bill McMahon’s provocative new play, Cover. Produced in a three-quarters round intimate space on 36th Street, this play sucks you in with its charm and wit. McMahon’s characters vulnerability is their strength and their innocence is captivating.
Similar to Romeo and Juliet, two star-crossed lovers find each other one morning while waiting for a train. But there’s one big twist; it’s two men, “heterosexual”men, that find each other. And then we watch a surprising and unlikely love story form between this couple. David and Peter, (peter is 20 years David’s senior) are just as taken back as we are by the situation they find themselves in. Watching them negotiate the nuances of an intimate relationship is something we can all relate too. And just as we think they will ride into the proverbial sunset, we realize there’s just one thing in their way; their wives”. Much of the second half of the play deals with the aftermath and consequences of David and Peter’s affair.
In a vulnerable play, and especially in an intimate venue, there’s is no room to hide and you can’t fake emotion. These actors are stunning in their own right and serve the play extremely well. Max Rhyser plays the wide-eyed, lost puppy, David with such honesty that when we witness the loss of his innocence we are heart-broken. Rhyser takes us along on his journey and we are grateful that he did. His counterpart, Tony Travostino, plays Peter. Travostino’s hard exterior that melts as the affair and play progress, is remarkable. We believe both of them at every turn, which makes it hard to hate that these men are cheating on their wives. Peter’s wife, Beth, is played by the incomable Karin de la Penha. Penha had taken some years off from acting, and after her striking performance we wonder why she ever left the stage. Olivia Mell, plays Zan, David’s wife. Her descent into despair after she learns of David’s infidelity is palpable.
My only slight qualm with the production is it’s episodic structure. Many of the scenes in the beginning of the play are very short and the transitions between them take too long. This makes it hard for the audience to truly gain momentum and enter the world of the play until the first 15 minutes or so. But when we do connect with the play, we are fully engaged and emotionally available to experience everything that the play has to offer. It’s a shame that this production is over. After seeing it, it was clear that we unCovered a great piece of theater!
Cover was preseted at the Abingdon Theater Complex, 312 W. 36th St., as part of the Midtown International Theater Festival