Knife to the Heart

Michael Van Duzer Reviews - Theater

Knife to the Heart may not be the first circumcision comedy, though it’s certainly the first I’ve seen. But the world premiere play by Christian McLaughlin and Stan Zimmerman is unlikely to offend or disturb anyone. As their previous theatrical outings, the Hollywood satire Meet and Greet and the heartwarming two-hander Yes, Virginia, proved, McLaughlin and Zimmerman know how to mine laughs from any situation.

The situation here is comedically fraught. Marshall (Josh Zuckerman) lives in Texas with his lovely shiksa wife Julie Ann (Andrea Bowen). Julie Ann discovers she is pregnant which makes Marshall’s more than usually overbearing mother Rhonda (Anne DeSalvo) even more controlling than usual. Julie Ann’s easy-going nature allows her to handle her mother-in-law’s interference until the day her gay BFF Deacon (Todd Sherry) clues her in on the purpose of the bris Rhonda is planning.

McLaughlin and Zimmerman’s script sets up numerous comic situation and contains plenty of laugh lines, but the end result is more formulaic than their earlier outings. A late-appearing bid for gravitas feels particularly out of sync with the rest of the play.

Zimmerman’s direction is swift and sure. His long and successful career in Hollywood means that he can command the best actors in town for his cast.

Zuckerman is in adorable nebbish mode but brings a definite dignity to his character without sacrificing comic verve. Bowen makes a beguiling Julie Ann but is utterly convincing when she squares off against her mother-in-law. DeSalvo’s Rhonda has the character’s power and attitude down pat, but her lines felt ever so slightly tentative on opening night. Sherry chews scenery with flamboyant gusto and nails every laugh the generous playwrights give him.

Knife to the Heart is an entertaining 90 minutes but leaves you thinking that there is more to explore in this story.

Dorie Theater    May 5 – May 20, 2018