Review of "Quiet Enjoyment" by Richard Curtis
“Quiet Enjoyment” is the name of the play penned by New York playwright Richard Curtis, but riotous entertainment is a far more apt description of his delightful comedy, playing through November 3rd at the Playroom Theater in Manhattan. The action, of which there is plenty, centers around the closing of a multi-million dollar Manhattan condo as part of a divorce settlement; however, what should be a straight forward legal affair is turned into a barely disguised brawl by a number of past and present romantic entanglements and some fiduciary fan-dangling by one of the principals.
At rise, an uptight and highly functional feminist Meredith Cudlip (Samantha Mercado Tudda) is preparing the documents for the condo closing in the absence of her boss, real estate magnate Martha Pusey (Paula Gates). Under Marcus Gualberto’s accomplished directorial hand, Tudda beautifully displays Cudlip’s obsessive tendencies by having her organize the documents for closing in perfect order, dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” in an effort to facilitate a smooth transition of the property. But to no avail. Cudlip’s perfect world is waylaid by the over-sexed and uninhibited Abe Bimsky (Mario Claudio), the attorney representing the condo’s present owner, Peter Chasen (Mark A. Daly). Bimsky’s field of legal expertise is real estate, and, like Cudlip, he too is a perfectionist. And the document he prepared for this closing is perfect, so he thinks.
Chasen is handing over the condo to his ex, Juliana (Jamie Lee Kearns) so he’ll be free to marry the new love of his life, Karma (Megan Simard) a physical embodiment of the New Age mind, body, spirit fringe element of modernity. While Bimsky is filling in for the wayward Peter’s regular attorney, Juliana is represented by her sister, the straight-laced and highly competent, Dana Miller (Kris Parades).
Other wrenches thrown into Cudlip’s perfect closing are that Peter shows up without a photo ID as required by law and with Karma in tow. Karma’s unannounced participation in the proceedings does not bring out the best in Juliana and is challenged by Dana. Karma comes along to ensure Peter gets the one thing in the multi-million dollar condo he promised her: a crystal chandelier from the bedroom. But Juliana wants the chandelier too and for the same reason Karma does, and she won’t budge.
In scenes reminiscent of everything from Noel Coward to the Marx Brothers, Curtis shows his literary savvy with dialogue that is both outrageously funny and emotionally powerful. Daly and Kearns bring out all the sadness and sorrow of a broken marriage; Claudio, Tudda and Simard exchange witty repartee to make their points, and in a poignant moment, Paredes is forced to admit she is no better or worse than any of the others. Past relationships are clarified and issues are brought to light.
In what in any other play would be a scene stealer, Gates—who doubles as the aforementioned Pusey and Peter’s secretary, Tammy—enters the fray, having successfully “talked” her way into her Peter’s new apartment to get the photo ID he needs to salvage the closing. Having suffered a broken heel on her designer shoes and a humiliation at the hands of Peter’s doorman, she arrives to save the day, only to find out a transfer of funds from the Cayman Islands is still pending. Then as Pusey, Gates re-enters in an attempt to save the day again. It’s déjà vu all over again, and the gifted Ms. Gates is a natural comic, squeezing every last laugh out of both roles.
As a whole, the ensemble is sensational. Each actor finds the humor and humanity in his/her role and communicates the playwright’s intent with exquisite sensitivity t. Ruth Guimerà’s choreography adds a nice touch to Robert Maisonett’s scenic coordination. As Production Manager and Sound Designer, Alley Rollo’s vision was critical to every aspect of the show’s professional presentation, as was the work of Costume Coordinator Samantha Tudda.
Gualberto manages to identify all the nuances in Curtis’ terrific script and to accentuate the symbolism in the play both artistically and coherently. The transitory tingling of a crystal chandelier is not nearly as permanent as genuine love, even if that love has gone slightly awry. And when the brilliant Tudda as Cudlip finally flings the paperwork representing her perfectly organized life into the air to fall where it may, she frees herself from the bounds of the inhuman bondage.