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Arts & Culture

Bob Goepfert Reviews "How Water Behaves"

“How Water Behaves,” a world-premiere comedy-drama that’s  playing at Capital Repertory Theatre through February 8, is an easy play to like – or at least, want to like. 

Indeed, it’s like getting three plays for the price of one.   At its core it’s a sweet love story between two opposites.   Steve is an unemployed web designer who sets demanding priorities for his life.  His wife Nan is a dreamer who wants to save, or at least repair the world.   His unemotional view on how to live life is often in conflict with her innocent way of life.

“How Water Behaves” is also a farce with well-meaning characters who make decisions and take action based on poor information.  The play pokes fun at politically correct life styles, fad diets, divorce parties, the internet, consumer consumption and coercive gift giving.   

It’s almost ironic that the play that derides political correctness is filled with politically correct characters that include a gay male couple, a single woman trying to use science to become pregnant, an Asian-British poet and a mystical African woman who makes peace in the household.

The plot revolves around the couple who when faced with the dilemma of having to give gifts they cannot afford to imperious relatives they don’t like, invent a fake charity, “All’s Well That Ends With a Well.”  It’s a not-for-profit that provides water for impoverished African communities.  The couple then donates money to the charity in the name of friends and relatives.  

This gift offers an opportunity for the play to become a vehicle to express political topics – mostly environmental – which are raised in an even-handed way. 

While the romance is sweet, the farce amusing and the political discussions thoughtful – the three segments fail to form a unified whole.  Once you become involved with one of the themes or start to enjoy a certain style of storytelling, playwright Sherry Kramer shifts the focus of the scene.  

For instance, when the story about the couple’s struggles enters farcical territory with the gift of a large Trojan Horse, the comic momentum is diverted by either the problems of the wife’s best friend, a bickering of the gay couple or the ramblings of an esoteric poet.   

The same happens with the political issues which are often eloquent statements concerning the frustration of those who have the desire to do good but lack the resources to make good happen.  

Such meandering is usually only distracting rather than being seriously hurtful.  However, when the play takes a leap into “magical realism” the thoughtful debate and the humor starts to seem contrived and implausible.  It appears a device to get resolution from a work that has written itself into a corner.

Nonetheless, the play does have the happiest of endings as every character in the play gets what he or she wants.  It’s a delightful scene that shows the talent of playwright Kramer and indicates what “How Water Behaves” could be when she eventually decides which of the three plays she wants to write.

Director Gordon Greenberg finds many amusing moments overcoming the fragmented structure of the writing and a habit of characters disappearing for long stretches of time.   The actors always find the charm in characters who aren’t always charming and rarely seem authentic.   But somehow solid performances by a talented cast make us care about them and their situation.

“How Water Behaves” is neither perfect nor profound, but it has something to say and says it in a congenial manner.   It is a nice night in the theater.

“How Water Behaves,” at Capital Rpertory Theatre, Albany through February 8.  Performances 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday.  445-7469, capital rep.org

Bob Goepfert is the arts editor for the Troy Record.

 

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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