Round House Theatre's The Book Club Play

The Book Club Play by Karen Zacarias is a fun little show about the social dynamics that occur when people get together ostensibly for the reason of discussing literature. The conceit is that the audience is watching a documentary filmed for a graduate thesis. The play opens with the documentary's opening credits projected on square screens that make up the back wall. I was worried that these projections would become cumbersome, but throughout the show they remained artsy and well done.

The book club is made up of queen bee Ana (Lise Bruneau), her jock husband Rob (Jason Paul Field), smart and mousy Jen (Connan Morissey), and the closeted Will (Sasha Olinick). A camera has been placed in Ana and Rob's living room and it captures their monthly meetings. Over the course of the year books are read (or not read) and secrets are spilled.

Several threads don't get tied up, and the plot gets a bit ridiculous in the second act, but overall remains entertaining. The characters are drawn pretty broadly, but the actors do fairly well in keeping them real. Most successful are Erika Rose and Matthew Detmer. Rose plays Lily, a young African American woman, who has been brought into the book club as the token representative of diversity. She has a great dry delivery and her expressions are priceless, as she teases the other characters when they stick their foots in their mouths. Detmer is Alex, the other addition to the book club. Alex is a little bit dorky, and a little bit more socially awkward. Detmer's performance is funny, and believable.

Each blackout is a shift in time, and the blackouts are covered by a series of interviews with some kooky characters, from a communications major to an octogenarian skydiver. These characters are all played by Sarah Marshall. Is Marshall ever anything less than delightful? Certainly in this production you look forward to her every entrance. She knows how to work every line. Marshall is assisted by the excellent costumes designed by Rosemary Pardee. Pardee's costumes for the Interviewees create instant character recognition. Her choices for the main, "straight" characters are excellent as well. So often costumers only get noticed in period pieces, or productions were they get to make glamorous and showy outfits. The costumes in contemporary plays often get overlooked. But Pardee's are perfect. They do everything costumes are supposed to do – they look like clothes the characters would actually wear and they tell the audience about who these characters are and what is important to them.

The Book Club Play is the theatrical equivalent of going to see a popcorn movie. It was entertaining, and a nice evening, especially in the middle of the week when you're just in the mood for something a little diverting from all the things you have to do.

3 stars
Through March 2nd


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