Only in NYC will you meet your next roommate on a park bench
A review by Benjamin Nockles
Friends, by Peter L. Levy, opens on a park bench in Central Park.
Though it may sound trite, it is still the perfect setting for – you guessed it – the introduction of two perfect strangers, in this case, an elderly man and woman. But if you’re already writing this one off for fear that at the opening of the first act, you won’t be able to stifle a groan of disapproval for such a hackneyed premise, at least know that the actors are well-aware of what they are up against and counter with a surprising and unrelenting stream of positive energy.
Admittedly, this energy comes at the price of seeming a bit forced, but any sense of artificiality is easily forgiven (though not forgotten) once the undeniable charm of this adorable, elderly duo takes over.
Max is a widower, left to sleep on park benches after outliving his retirement fund and surviving on what little his remaining social security and pension can provide. Ruth is lonely divorcee and a self- proclaimed “friend,” according to the title on her “card.” Upon their initial introduction, both characters omit the undesirable details of their respective pasts, but the following day, when Ruth discovers Max asleep on the same bench where she left him the night before, compassion overpowers reason and she invites him to stay on her couch “temporarily.”
The second act features a refreshing change of scenery and, as more truth about these new-found friends is revealed, the play curves towards the real, underlying questions about trust, companionship, and what can you hope to find after you outlive your life plan?
During the curtain call, when these two, beloved faces greet their audience with marvelous, heart-warming smiles, you’ll realize that the beautiful idea of the play and the lasting charm of its characters are enough to at least make you feel bad about admitting that the play itself falls short of outstanding. It’s just a little too cheesy and a little too canned to take seriously. Nevertheless, if you’re in need of something new to bring you a smile, this delightful cast will make it worth your while.
Friends, a Donis Production and directed by Jerry Donis, opens Thursday, October 14th at Theatre 3, 311 West 43rd Street 3rd Floor.