LIPS TOGETHER TEETH APART - Westport Country Playhouse
By Marlene S. Gaylinn
“Lips Together Teeth Apart,” is a lighthearted play based on serious subject matter by award-winning playwright, Terrence McNally. The story takes place at a beach house located in a gay community on Fire Island, N.Y. Two straight couples are spending the July 4th holiday together. Sam and Sally inherited the place from Sally’s brother, who recently died of AIDS. Their guests are Cloe and John. Cloe is Sam’s sister.
On the surface, this story is about two straight couples that are somewhat uncomfortable being surrounded by gays. But, as the play reveals, they are also uncomfortable being among themselves. As the day progresses, periods of jealousy and anger rise and fall like the sea. The moody sea has meaning because it also represents a death trap when someone drowns in accordance with Sally’s fearful premonition.
Underlying each marriage are complex, hidden disappointments. Therefore, hanging like a dark cloud over what is supposed to be a joyful, holiday celebration is a pervasive atmosphere of fear. Fear of being a bad wife or husband, fear of being a bad parent and fear of “dying.” This ultimate fear of dying is further emphasized by the false assumption of acquiring AIDS through swimming in the dead brother’s pool. It also extends to the fear of celebrating the holiday with unusual neighbors who might contaminate them. So instead of enjoying life, the couples sit around the pool, but not in it - that is, until the fireworks begin - both literally and figuratively.
The only member of the group who is not consumed by fear is Sam’s outgoing sister, “Cloe,” who continually grabs the center of attention to the point of being annoying.
“Jenn Gambatese as “Cloe,” may be the Modern Tinkerbelle that playwright McNally had in mind. The actress is a lively, little firecracker that lights up the stage with her joyful antics. John Conlee renders a strong portrayal of her hot-tempered brother Sam, and Chris Coffey intelligently portrays Cloe’s sly husband, “John,” Unfortunately, Maggie Lacey’s characterization of “Sally,” Sam’s spiritually sensitive, wife, is not fully developed. Her weak voice also needs projection.
While the words are clever and often very amusing, the play lacks a central focus and an emotional climax. Nevertheless, this frothy, summertime fare is easy to digest.
Plays until July 30