Fantasy meets reality in play

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Ever wonder what became of the old college flame who dumped you? Ever imagine him or her showing up at your door decades later, consumed with regret and determined to make up for lost time?

That's what happens to Mary Hanson in Sam Bobrick's romantic comedy Remember Me? But there's a glorious Noel Coward-esque twist to this light and lovely comedy, which is being presented as a delightful production at Pennsylvania's Totem Pole Playhouse under the adept direction of producing artistic director Carl Schurr.

When Peter Lawrence arrives unexpectedly at the New York apartment Mary shares with her husband of 27 years, Peter isn't everything he appears to be. Or, to put it more precisely, Peter appears only to Mary; her husband Brian can't see him at all.

This leads to some amusingly misconstrued dialogue, a la Coward's Blithe Spirit, in which another lost love mysteriously reappears from the past and wreaks havoc. In Remember Me? Brian more than once mistakenly assumes Mary is addressing him when she's actually talking to Peter.

The situation sends Brian into a vituperative tizzy, a condition humorously conveyed by Baltimore-based actor Wil Love, a Totem Pole veteran. Arming himself with weapons ranging from a can of foot spray to a fire extinguisher, Love's Brian becomes increasingly unhinged as he attempts to cope with his bewilderment, anger and dismay.

As Mary, who suddenly finds herself the object of two men's affections and whose midlife malaise is beginning to resemble a breakdown, Sherry Skinker starts out as a typical bored housewife. Soon, however, she appears to succumb to a deep-seated - and deeply satisfying - fantasy (just watch her shoulders melt when massaged by that old college flame). And yet, even when Mary's situation is at its most bizarre, Skinker heightens the humor by portraying her as the grounded antithesis of her readily rattled husband.

Larry Sharp plays Mary's college heartthrob with suave assurance, and Tess Hartman introduces an added dose of giddiness in the small role of a bubbleheaded aspiring actress.

The playwright, a seasoned TV writer, lets the audience know that Remember Me? is more than a mere sitcom in the very first scene, which includes passages of direct audience address. By the time a mirrored ball descends from the flies, the audience is sailing on the same cloud as the happily bewitched Mary.

Set designer Rebecca Lord has created a beautifully appointed Upper East Side living room for the Hansons; costume designer Jacqueline Rebok Lacarriere dresses the cast suitably and stylishly (she's even found a Betty Boop purse for the character of the silly young actress); and Michael D. Domue's lighting brings a touch of magic to the otherworldly goings-on.

Playwright Bobrick tacks one of those improbable-coincidence endings onto Remember Me? but he gets away with it by acknowledging its improbability in the dialogue. And Remember Me? is so warmhearted it's easy to forgive a bit of contrived plotting.

One other thing about this seemingly lightweight comedy: Bobrick's script may be a sweet summer-stock confection, but it also has something to say - nothing grand or earth-shattering, but something worth being reminded of from time to time.

Remember Me? is about not taking love for granted. The title refers as much to a long-married husband and wife remembering to appreciate each other as it does to the reappearance of a former lover. In between laughs, the play gives you a little nudge in your gratitude plexus, and that makes its charm all the more endearing.

Remember?

Where: Totem Pole Playhouse, 9555 Golf Course Road, Caledonia State Park, Fayetteville, Pa., 15 miles west of Gettysburg

When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; matinees at 2:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, through Aug. 10

Tickets: $20.50-$27.50

Call: 888-805-7056

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