>Near the end of the second act of Jeff Gould's live sitcom, frustrated Liz Waters (Cynthia Gibb) complains to Wise Guru (Marvin Kaplan) that her five-year marriage to Jack Waters (Michael Spound) lacks depth. Guru replies, "If you want deep, go to the ocean, or better yet, become a theater critic." These are the jokes, folks. Director Richard Hochberg expertly guides an excellent ensemble through this superficial marital pas de deux wherein the laughs come from what's on the stage and decidedly not from what's on the page.

Near the end of the second act of Jeff Gould’s live sitcom, frustrated Liz Waters (Cynthia Gibb) complains to Wise Guru (Marvin Kaplan) that her five-year marriage to Jack Waters (Michael Spound) lacks depth. Guru replies, “If you want deep, go to the ocean, or better yet, become a theater critic.” These are the jokes, folks. Director Richard Hochberg expertly guides an excellent ensemble through this superficial marital pas de deux wherein the laughs come from what’s on the stage and decidedly not from what’s on the page.

When Jack is courting Liz, he passionately inquires, “Are you my girl?” With equal passion she declares, “I’ll always be your girl.” But after five years of marriage, the bliss is gone, and the Waters household has become a minor war zone. Anal-retentive Jack is compelled to try to resolve all their problems down to the most minute, petty detail, while latent hippie Liz wants their marriage to be constantly imbued with unrealistic romantic spontaneity.

Gould livens up the action with over-the-top lovey-dovey neighbors Susan (Romy Resonant) and Lenny (Pete Zahradnick), a pair of caricaturistic marriage counselors (Gail Johnston and David Richards), the Wise Guru and alternative love interests Sheila (Bra Hochwald) and Rick (Jack Turturici). Yet Gould never delves deeper than surface-skimming repartee, inflating what could easily have been a taut, 30-minute TV pilot into a two-hour study in self-indulgence.

What does work are the performances. Gibb (“The Karen Carpenter Story,” “Gypsy”) and Spound (“Hotel”) are attractive, well-seasoned pros who exude a tangible, onstage attraction to one another, transcending Gould’s sophomoric dialogue. Rosemond and Zahradnick effectively chew up the scenery as the frighteningly exuberant neighbors who have never had a real conversation with one another. In two brief but memorable scenes, the legendary Kaplan (“Alice”) exhibits his exquisite, understated comedic timing as the all-knowing wiseman who utilizes simple, common truths to guide Liz and Jack back into each other’s arms.

Deserving special mention are Turturici and Hochwald as participants in separated Liz and Jack’s momentary dalliances. Turturici is terrific as the nonchalant, live-for-the-moment artist who thinks nothing of booking a followup date to his evening out with Liz. And Hochwald is a sight to behold as the sexually aggressive date who is reduced to a mass of paranoid hysteria when referred to as being a “girl.”

The modular set design of Tom Meleck and the lighting of Frank McKown create a perfect, cartoon-like atmosphere for the onstage doings.

Troubled Waters

Ventura Court Theatre; 85 seats; $20 top

Production

Home Run Prods., in association with the Ventura Court Theatre Alliance, presents "Troubled Waters," a play in two acts by Jeff Gould, directed by Richard Hochberg. Associate producers, Gary Goldstein, Patrick Baca.

Crew

Set design, Tom Meleck; lighting design, Frank McKown; sound design, Kevin Gould, Hochberg. Opened and reviewed Jan. 17; runs until Feb. 22. Running time: 2 hours.

With

Cast: Cynthia Gibb (Liz Waters), Michael Spound (Jack Waters), Romy Rosemond (Susan), Pete Zahradnick (Lenny), Marvin Kaplan (Wise Guru), Jack Turturici (Rick), Bari Hochwald (Sheila). Ensemble: Gail Johnston, David Richards, Tim Maculan.
Set design, Tom Meleck; lighting design, Frank McKown; sound design, Kevin Gould, Hochberg. Opened and reviewed Jan. 17; runs until Feb. 22. Running time: 2 hours.
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