Paul Rudnick is a master of hilarious one-liners, and there’s an evening full of them in his social and political theater piece, “Regrets Only.” Astute acting and direction in Theatre in the Park’s production make zingers work and embrace the script’s jumble of satire, farce and human comedy.
Although set in 2006, the play is as timely as today’s headlines. Park Avenue socialite Tibby and husband Jack, a conservative lawyer, share their penthouse with daughter Spencer and longtime maid Myra. Bride-to-be Spencer wants family friend Hank, a world-famous fashion designer, to make her gown. Hank, who’s been mourning the death of his long-term partner Mike, agrees, until he learns that Jack is going to help craft a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to a man and a woman.
Tibby, Hank’s trusted confidante and best friend, wavers between supporting him and her husband in the ensuing confrontations about the true meaning of marriage and friendship. Things get zany on Spencer’s wedding day when suddenly all the caterers, decorators and florists are on strike. How this happened and the meltdowns that occur make for amusing musings on love and relationships.
Rudnick’s sincere message about freedom to marry ultimately comes through, especially in Ira David Wood IV’s tightly paced, energetic staging. He goes for maximum laughs but keeps the characters grounded in reality so that the audience cares about them.
Lynda Clark is in her element as Tibby, expertly timing her barbs and wearing her hauteur and couture like a glove. Rick Meadows gives Hank sophistication and caustic charm, his several long scenes with Clark movingly establishing the characters’ true respect.
Lori Ingle Taylor turns rich, spoiled Spencer into a sympathetic, engaging character, as does Michael Brocki in his portrait of the clueless but warm-hearted Jack. Cameron West gamely takes on the quickly irritating gimmick of Myra’s constant interruptions with non-sequitur silliness. Janis Coville lobs some great lines as Tibby’s ditzy mother Marietta, but is challenged by Marietta’s unnecessarily long monolog that opens Act 2.
Thomas Mauney’s impressively elegant set and the classy costume designs by Susan Smith and Shawn Stewart-Larson add glittering polish.
The subject matter is sometimes frank and the language scatological, but Rudnick aims his prickly wit on all sides, making it easy for audiences of all persuasions to leave with smiles and insights.
What: “Regrets Only” by Paul Rudnick
Where: Theatre in the Park, 107 Pullen Road, Raleigh
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and April 10-11; 3 p.m. Apr. 5 and 12
Tickets: $22; $16 for seniors/students/military
Info: 919-831-6058 or theatreinthepark.com