SUMMIT, NJ – Brenda Withers’s original play, “String Around My Finger,” looks at the bleak side of life, but does so with warmth and humor. Tackling medical costs with a light touch seems like an oxymoron, but it’s an intriguing basis for this play.
It seems that Emma (Brianna Kalisch) is in the hospital, recovering from a miscarriage. Her finance, (which someone calls ‘a fancy word for boyfriend,’) is there to comfort and support her. Dave Maulbeck as Kip is at times frenetic and excitable as he tries to find some sort of balance between his interfering sister, Harriett Trangucci as Lisa, and the sense of loss following Emma’s pregnancy. Bu even more troubling, as we gradually learn, is that Kip’s insurance won’t cover Emma’s hospital stay. And that’s mainly because they’re not married yet.
Then we have Scott McGowan as Dave, a physician’s assistant, who seems to be the most stable, calm presence in this setting. The marvelous Noreen Farley plays Mrs. Rizzo. Although she has only one scene, it’s a classic. There she is in a wheelchair, making conversation with Lisa and insisting that everyone would be happier if they just listened to Frank Sinatra. But Lisa’s lifeline is her cell phone, despite signs throughout the hospital that they’re not to be used. Trangucci is priceless in her controlling efforts to run her brother’s life.
The play does, to a degree, touch on the high cost of medical care. Kip and Emma have planned a wedding and reception, but sister Lisa said it makes more sense to postpone the wedding and pay the medical bill and she would help with that.
This option causes reconsidering by Emma, as she starts to wonder if marriage to Kip is such a good idea. There are some tender moments along the way, especially when Lisa and Dave meet in the hospital chapel and start singing Christmas carols to each other. (McGowan has a terrific voice, so it would be great to hear him sing more.)
Clark Carmichael has directed the cast adroitly, with set and lighting by Zach Pizza. The small stage manages to create fluid spaces of a hospital room, hallways and other areas. The title, “String Around My Finger,” must deal with remembering and what matters to these characters as their lives shift and turn in unexpected ways.
The play continues at Dreamcatchers Theatre, located at the Oakes Center, 12 Morris Avenue in Summit, through May 12. For tickets, call 800-838-3006 or visit DreamcatcherRep.org.