By Jim Rutter
For THE INQUIRER
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Hedgerow Theatre serves up the world premiere of Larry McKenna’s Strictly Platonic, a cute, chocolate-covered cherry of a romantic comedy.
McKenna’s 11-scene, 90-minute script wastes no time getting to its point: “do you ever look for meaningful relationships?” The recipient of that question is invariably a self-centered, shallow playboy, in this case, real estate agent Tim (Brendan Cataldo), riding home on the train in scene one from a night of bar hopping and phone-number scoring success with his bitter, beta male best friend (Jamie Goldman as Josh).
When Josh leaves, Tim meets Annie (Sarah Braverman), a blind woman he rescues from a mugging. A familiar formula follows: handsome boy meets interesting girl with a drawback; girl causes boy to question his previously held values; their budding relationship enriches (or at least reveals) his character.
We’ve seen this script before, in works as diverse as Neil LaBute’s Fat Pig (not to mention his In the Company of Men), the film Shallow Hal, and the Disney movie Lady and the Tramp. In a different production, McKenna’s play could easily find detractors to ask why we should sit through one more episode of a good-natured woman bringing about the enlightenment of an arrogant man.
Hedgerow’s casting nearly encourages this cynicism; few men would fail to fall for a stunning size-2 brunette like Braverman, despite her disability, annoying quirks or sarcasm. McKenna further litters his text with out-of-character literary references to Don Juan, Emily Dickinson and James Michener, stories and authors more likely known to my grandparents than these Internet and iPhone addicted millenials.
However, under McKenna’s direction, Braverman’s earnest, engaging attitude asks for no sympathy, and her sly, self-deprecating manner, the smart humor of McKenna’s lines and Cataldo’s genuine bonhomie elevates this simple script into an delightful evening that’s sweet to its center and ultimately worth every bite.
Strictly Platonic. Presented through March 3 at Hedgerow Theatre, 64 Rose Valley Road, Rose Valley. Tickets: $10 to $32. Information: 610-565-4211 or hedgerowtheatre.org