Take Some Time off for “Poor Behavior” at the Falcon

Review by Laurel Humes of Poor Behavior: Falcon Theatre

“Poor behavior” doesn’t even come close to describing the antics of the two married couples in Falcon Theatre’s current skillful production of the Theresa Rebeck play.

The tense, edgy Poor Behavior brings the friends together for a weekend getaway. As the show opens, though, there is already a drunken argument going on between Ian (Phineas Clark) and Ella (Becca Howell), as their spouses try unsuccessfully to intervene.

And it goes downhill from there.

Are Ian and Ella having an affair? Is Ian’s wife Maureen (Torie Pate) really unstable? How can Ella’s husband Peter (Derek Snow) stay so placid? Can these marriages survive?

Those are the questions you’ll debate at intermission. Before Act II brings more surprises.

I need to say that these characters are not people I would want to spend a weekend with. I fault the playwright for giving no redeeming qualities to any of them. But I had a Peeping Tom sense of fascination watching them self-destruct.

That I wanted to keep watching had everything to do with the actors.

Ian is Irish (great accent by Clark), and it’s up for debate whether he married his American wife for a green card and/or her money. Clark brings out Ian’s arrogance and ability to manipulate people with his words.

But Pate’s Maureen does not suffer in silence. Her accusations, eventually against all the others, are expressed in a range from cold to shrieking declarations. Pate is a master of physical expression; even if there was no dialogue, you could follow the character from her face alone.

Howell plays Ella as the superficial, egocentric character sketched by the playwright. But Howell has a gift of subtleness – watch to see the flashes of guilt and fear cross her face.

Playing her husband, Snow seems to be the calmest, most reserved and likeable of the characters. But Snow takes us with him as his anger slowly builds, culminating in an outburst of temper and (a bit-too-choreographed) fight with a frying pan.

Director Lauren Carr keeps the pace of dialogue and movement fast-moving. The single set – a very realistic eat-in kitchen – gives the actors plenty of space to move.

Falcon posted a warning that Poor Behavior “contains adult language and sexual situations.” The sex is heard more than seen, but there is no doubt about what’s happening!

Poor Behavior continues at Falcon Theatre, 636 Monmouth St., Newport, through Dec. 2. Go to www.falcontheatre.net for ticket information.

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