Cupid’s Arrow Finds an Unusual Target At Hedgerow

Brendan Cataldo and Jamie Goldman in a scene from STRICTLY PLATONIC at Hedgerow Theatre.

Brendan Cataldo and Jamie Goldman in a scene from STRICTLY PLATONIC at Hedgerow Theatre.

Yeah, this is about right for my life—sitting alone on Valentine’s Day watching a romantic comedy…

But, in a way that was kind of the perfect mindset to see Larry McKenna’s new comedy, STRICTLY PLATONIC. It’s a clever piece about that age old search for true love, something we can all relate to. At the start of the story, we see Tim (Brendan Cataldo) and his buddy Josh (Jamie Goldman) on the subway chatting about the 3 girls who gave Tim their phone numbers at the bar the night before. Tim is a “playeh.” He likes them for their bodies, not their brains. And because he’s a hunk, the girls are more than happy to go out with him. Josh is the “funny one.” He’s smart, clever—and desperate for a girlfriend. He’s kind of Jonah Hill to Tim’s Channing Tatum, I guess you could say.

Brendan Cataldo and Sarah Braverman star in Larry McKenna's STRICTLY PLATONIC at Hedgerow Theatre through March 3.

Brendan Cataldo and Sarah Braverman star in Larry McKenna’s STRICTLY PLATONIC at Hedgerow Theatre through March 3.

After Josh exits the train, Tim is drawn into a conversation with Annie (Sarah Braverman)—who isn’t like any girl he’s ever met before. The two decide to just be friends, a first for Tim. And let’s just say he gets blindsided by love. Other than a flirtation with his office’s hottie (Hilary Bucell—who does double duty as a sassy waitress), I won’t tell you any more of the plot because I don’t want to spoil the fun. This sharp new comedy plays out in 90 minutes (no intermission) in a series of quick, but well written, scenes. Other than a couple of references to film stars that twenty-somethings probably wouldn’t even know, McKenna has crafted a fun commentary on relationships. And his young cast is up to the task of telling the story.

Cataldo has an easy charm—and the good looks to match—that works well for the role of that guy who is playing the field, and doesn’t seem to know how to commit. He did a nice job of showing Tim’s growth thru his burgeoning relationship with Annie. As the object of that newfound love, Braverman is lovely; she has a nice way with the acerbic lines McKenna has given her character. Annie is a smartass, but a fun one. Jamie Goldman is a hoot as the nerdy sidekick. He has a great natural comedic flair. My only quibble would be that he tended to look at the audience every time he said a punch line—you know, that nudging “Here’s the funny folks.” Just be in the moment and trust that the audience will get it. Hilary Bucell is a real find. Her turns as both Vicky, the object of both guys’ lust, and Mary Kate, a waitress at Annie’s favorite spot, are both comic gems.

McKenna also directed the production, and he’s kept things moving at a nice pace. I always wonder if a playwright should direct his own work, if they might be too close to it. But McKenna seems to be able to edit himself. His staging was crisp; I didn’t notice any glaring blocking issues. He’s set the action in several locales and set designer Zoran Kovcic has, once again, done a great job of providing an easily changeable set for the ensemble to play on. Solid sound and light support was provided by Jared Reed—I was loving the contemporary pre-show music. Cathie Miglionico has done her usual solid job with costuming and stage manager Joel Guerrero is having way too much fun executing the scene changes.

Hilary Hilary Bucell and Brendan Cataldo in Hedgerow Theatre's production of STRICTLY PLATONIC.

Hilary Bucell and Brendan Cataldo in Hedgerow Theatre’s production of STRICTLY PLATONIC.

Hedgerow picked a winner for this season’s new play. STRICTLY PLATONIC is a wonderful Valentine to transitioning from the serial dating we do as kids to finding our true soul mate. This brisk 90 minute comedy is a fun way to relieve the winter doldrums. Head over to Hedgerow and join the fun.

by Larry McKenna
Directed by Larry McKenna
February 7—March 3, 2013
Hedgerow Theatre
64 Rose Valley Road
Media, Pa

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Ellen Wilson Dilks

Ellen Wilson Dilks

EA reviewer with STAGE for several seasons now, Ellen recently took on the role of Project Coordinator for the site, handling the scheduling of our many writers and serving as their liaison with our member theatre companies. She has been active in the Philly theatre community for over three decades as an actress, dialect coach, dramaturg and director. Past directorial credits include PERMANENT COLLECTION, OUR TOWN and ALMOST, MAINE for the Players Club of Swarthmore, CHILDE BYRON at Allens Lane, STRING OF PEARLS at Widener University and THE LARAMIE PROJECT at Celebration Theatre. In addition, Ellen served as Assistant Director for VANITIES, RUN FOR YOUR WIFE and DEATHTRAP at Hedgerow Theatre. As a performer, she has appeared in Shakespeare (HAMLET and KING LEAR), Mamet (THE CRYPTOGRAM), Wilde (THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST) and Wilder (OUR TOWN), to name a few. Ellen was a Barrymore Nominator for three seasons and served as Assistant Director for two productions of the Adult Theatre School Ensemble at People's Light & Theatre Company.

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