Act 3 of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1962) is entitled, “Exorcism” and, indeed, the infamous Martha and George exorcise their demons, as well as the demons of academia everywhere.
In Riches, Lee Blessing’s 1984 two-hander originally entitled The War of the Roses and now on stage at the Anacostia Playhouse, we have a different kind of exorcism: imagine if you will Martha and George as a repressed suburban couple going through empty-nest syndrome.
It isn’t pretty, and it wasn’t meant to be.
But neither is this production as dark and ferocious as one could have made it, as Director Paul Douglas Michnewicz elected to tamp down the darkness, the possible bitterness and years of contempt underneath those layers of “the happy life”.
David Rich (Dana Scott Galloway) and Carolyn Rich (Adele Robey) are celebrating their anniversary, in the very same hotel as their wedding night nuptials, just as they have done at each anniversary for 20 years.
Their son is off at college now and Carolyn is reading The Art of Friendship. Last week she watched a TV show about a hitherto undiscovered dark celestial body.
Today, she wants a divorce.
She drops the bomb on husband David, but unlike Japan surrender does not follow. Like the advertising executive that he is, David will do anything to save a worthy client, only this time it’s his wife.
On the other hand, Carolyn doesn’t know why she wants out of a relatively “happy” marriage other than to complain about David’s habits and his nose.
Although a bit stiff, Galloway and Robey capture the everyday interactions between husband and wife fairly well; it’s that explosive underbelly that remains a challenge: one doesn’t really experience the ennui, the kind made famous by The Diary of a Mad Housewife and Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage.
Set Designer Harlan Penn creates a very realistic St. James Hotel room while Lighting Designer Johnathan Alexander does a good job differentiating moods. Costume Designer Donna Breslin has 1980s “successful suburban” down pat.
If you want a glimpse into what a mid-life crisis looks like–minus the sporty car, or the young wife, or Thelma and Louise–then Riches is for you.
Just remember, no matter what happens, “tomorrow is another day.”
Running Time: 60 minutes without an intermission.