By Dee Jae Cox
Audrey Cefaly’s new play, “Maytag Virgin,” Dezart Performs final season offering, has all of the makings of a good play. The dialogue is well written, witty and insightful. The characters, Elizabeth “Lizzy” Nash and Jack Key, are very likable and who doesn’t love a good love story with a slow southern burn leading to an anticipated happy ending? A wonderful set design, created by Thomas L. Valach and excellent direction by the talented Deborah Harmon all contribute to the makings of a hit show. Yet it still felt like something was missing. That slow burning attraction between the characters leading to a predictable conclusion never seemed to catch fire and burst into flames.
Lizzy Nash, performed beautifully by Kay Capasso, is an Alabama schoolteacher, recently widowed and making efforts to keep her lack of grieving and perceived shortcomings between her and God, as any righteous southern woman is taught to do. Capasso is wonderful in this role, just the right amount of stubborn strength and vulnerability to make Lizzy a very sympathetic and identifiable character. Joel Bryant portrays Jack Key, a really nice guy who is also a teacher and buys the house next door to Lizzie in an effort to start fresh and move beyond his own grief after losing his beloved wife a couple of years earlier.
Bryant, is a talented actor who gives Jack all of the human qualities that make him so likeable. Jack discovers a bag of love letters in his new house, they were written by the previous owners who shared a 40-year relationship. Jack is convinced that the old man who died in the house is still haunting the place. Jack and Lizzy begin reading the letters and bond over conversations about grief and regret.
In the process of dealing with the trials and tribulations of two people not looking for love, but finding it anyway, Lizzy and Jack slowly begin to tear down the walls that have served to protect them from the human frailties of life.
There are some moments that are gems to be gathered and appreciated in the midst of the predictability. During a thunderstorm Lizzy steps out into the rain wearing a bathrobe and allows herself to be baptized by the downpour, perhaps hoping to wash away the ‘sin’ of the secret she harbors. I did love the special rain and thunder effects. Jack, in his nervousness to make things perfect rushes about in nervous excitement getting things set just right for his evening with Lizzy. The characters are human, Maytag Virgin is a slice of life peek into your neighbor’s window and maybe that is enough if you are in the mood for a simple girl meets boy love story. Cefaly’s play is well written and creates an ideal scenario for two people to find love and live happily ever after. Harmon’s direction and added nuances no doubt puts the true flavor in this show. But other than their individual emotional barriers, there really is zero conflict or surprises in this story.
Maytag Virgin, can be seen through April 14th, at Dezart Performs, located at the Palm Springs Women’s Club, 314 S Cahuilla Rd, Palm Springs, CA
For show and ticket information: http://www.dezartperforms.org/
Dee Jae Cox is a playwright, director and producer. She is the Cofounder and Artistic Director for The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Project.