June 27, 2022
A&E | Northwest Herald


A&E

Review: ‘Married Alive!’ brings belly laughs to the Raue in Crystal Lake

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Note to readers: This is an occasional theater column. Reviews of productions throughout McHenry County will be written by various members of area theater companies, as well as educators.

It’s not often I see a show that prompts a belly laugh in its first few moments, but that’s exactly what “Married Alive!” does – and the laughs just keep coming.

Writer and lyricist Sean Grennan and composer Leah Okimoto have created a hilarious take on the titillations and tribulations of marriage from the dual perspective of Diane and Ron, a long-married couple who have been there and done that, and newlyweds Erin and Paul, who have no idea what they’re in for when it comes to marriage.

Performed as a series of related vignettes focused on issues such as sex, kids, money and communication, the show manages to laugh with married couples without laughing at them.

Staged by Williams Street Repertory of Crystal Lake and directed by Regina Belt-Daniels, the production features a small, but talented cast who have great chemistry and timing.

The show runs through Feb. 15 at the Raue Center for the Arts in Crystal Lake.

Amy Ferraro and Frank Gaughan, as Diane and Ron, hit just the right comic mix of affection and impatience of a middle-aged couple who know everything about each other.

Their counterparts, Bree Beelow and Roy Brown as Erin and Paul, convincingly portray the idealistic naïveté of young newlyweds who are, as the song says, “Stupid in Love.”

While the entire cast gives great performances, the part of Erin is the most dynamically written, and Beelow does it justice. Her tent revival-style rendition of “Oh, Knocked Up!,” her portrayal of twin sisters and her hilariously lengthy delivery about marital communication problems provide some of the show’s most memorable moments. Her performance is balanced nicely by Brown’s heartfelt delivery of “The Lucky One” and Ferraro and Gaughan’s slightly risqué “O Darlin.’”

Musical direction is provided by Mike Potts, who skillfully guides the vocal numbers from a piano placed at the edge of the stage. His well-modulated accompaniment adds to the enjoyment of the show, as do his saxophone interludes which set the mood and inject humor into several brief scenes.

Other aspects of the production are expressed in understated, but very effective fashion – a signature of sorts for director Belt-Daniels.

Set pieces are cleverly spare – a rotating piece at the center of the stage provides smooth transitions and adds production value without a lot of fuss, while the simple execution of the driving scene lends creative charm.

“Married Alive!” first premiered in March 2006 at the American Heartland Theater in Kansas City and has played around the world since then.

William Streets Repertory’s production of it at the Raue doesn’t disappoint – it provides a thoroughly entertaining, well-paced and funny night of musical theater.

• Carolyne Hurlburt has been involved in local theater for many years, both on stage and off. Formerly a board member of TownSquare Players in Woodstock and Light-Hearted Productions, she now studies contemporary literature at Marquette University. Find her on Twitter: @churlbu.