NEW BRUSNWICK, NJ – You’ll be fascinated, disturbed and delighted by the latest production at George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick. “Clever Little Lies,” with Marlo Thomas giving it her winsome best, is a smart, savvy play by Joe DiPietro.
It all starts off innocently enough, with Bill Sr. (Greg Mullavey ) and Bill Jr. (Jim Stanek) changing in a locker room after a friendly father-son game of tennis. But as the banter goes on, Bill confides in his father that he’s having an affair with a 25-year-old at his gym. He is, of course, married to Jane and has a baby as well.
Bill Sr. doesn’t quite know how to respond, but his son asks him to keep this information a secret (especially from his mother, Alice.)
Needless to say, that ultimately isn’t possible. Alice, in a brutally honest portrayal by Thomas, decides she’s going to repair the couple’s relationship before it’s too late. She invites them over for cheesecake and coffee. Before you know it, Alice admits to her own long-ago love affair with Arthur. It all goes downhill from there (or maybe uphill, depending on how you look at it.) Bill Sr. is devastated by this revelation, while Bill Jr. and Jane start to see their relationship in a different way.
The dialogue and action cause you to take a deeper look at your own intimate relationships, the lies and half-truths that cover up a multitude of sins.
Thankfully, this frequently dark tale is saved by DiPietro’s fluid, often humorous, dialogue and by the astute acting of Thomas, Mullavey, Stanek and Kate Wetherhead as Jane. Wetherhead will be seen at Paper Mill Playhouse in February in “The Other Josh Cohen.” Yoshi Tanokura’s set design is a slick marvel of an upscale living room, a car and a locker room. Esther Arroyo’s costumes hit the right contemporary notes and sound design by Scott Killian adds just enough discordant notes to keep us engaged. Artistic Director David Saint has brought all this into focus with a sure, light touch that brings out the difficulties of a long-time relationship…and how to hold it all together.
The 80-minute play has no intermission, which helps in building tension, leading to the play’s poignant resolution. DiPietro’s previous credits include the Tony Award for best book for “Nice Work if You Can Get it,” the Broadway musical with Kelli O’Hara and Matthew Broderick and another Tony for “Memphis.” Seen at George Street were his “The Toxic Avenger” and “Creating Clare.” Thomas has also graced this stage before, in the hilarious “Roger is Dead” and “New Year’s Eve.”
Performances of “Clever Little Lies” continue through Dec. 22. For tickets to this clever, insightful comedy, call (732) 246-7171 or visit GPSonline.org.