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Paulanne Simmons

"The Fourposter"

"The Fourposter"
Directed by Blake Lawrence
Presented by Keen Company
The Clurman Theatre on Theatre Row
410 West 42nd Street between 9th and 10th avenues
From October 7, 2008
Tues. 7 pm, Wed – Sat. 8 pm, Sun. 3 pm
(additional performance Sat., Nov. 22, 2 pm)
$41.25 (212) 279-4200 or Ticketcentral.com
Closes Nov. 22, 2008
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Oct. 18, 2008

Given the skyrocketing divorce rate in the United States, it might not be a bad idea for everyone to see "The Fourposter," Jan Hartog’s enduring and endearing classic about what keeps a man and woman together through the trials and terrors of married life.

Jessica Dickey and Todd Weeks in "The Fourposter" by Keen Company at The Clurman Theatre. Photo by Suzi Sadler.

Penned during World War II, "The Fourposter" was turned into a movie starring Rex Harrison and Lili Palmer in 1951. It also opened on Broadway with Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy playing the couple. And in 1966 the musical, titled "I Do I Do," featured Mary Martin and Robert Preston.

With its innocent romps over and in the ever-present fourposter, its angry stamping of feet and sometimes sappy confessions of love, it’s easy to misjudge "The Fourposter" as a trivial paean to marriage, a work no one in the cynical twenty-first century would ever take seriously. But Keen Company once again proves that even the supposedly hopelessly outdated can be healthily revived.

"The Fourposter" features Jessica Dickey as Agnes, the shy, inexperienced young girl who blossoms into a mature, assertive and insightful wife and mother; and Todd Weeks as Michael, the talented, self-centered but loving poet she marries. Under Blake Lawrence’s warn-hearted direction, the couple always seems firmly united, as they were indeed meant to be, even when they seem to be moving in opposite directions.

Michael has a special knack for sticking his foot in his mouth. On their wedding night he informs Agnes that "This is a very sad occasion. Your youth is over." But he is also tender and perceptive. As Agnes is about to give birth he says, "I thought I was marrying a princess. But I woke up to find a friend."

Agnes, who confesses on their wedding night that she has never seen a man naked, reveals a feisty side one would not have anticipated. She recognizes that her husband has become a "pompous ass" after his first successful book. She teases Michael with the hint that she may have been just as faithless as he.

Jessica Dickey and Todd Weeks in "The Fourposter" by Keen Company at The Clurman Theatre. Photo by Suzi Sadler.

The romantic comedy follows the couple from 1890 to 1925, from the awkwardness of their wedding night, through pregnancy, infidelity, parenting and midlife crisis. Each time one half of the couple breaks away, the other half somehow draws the partner back by an invisible string. Some might call it love.

At the center of the stage, and apparently their lives, is the old fourposter bed they have inherited. It is the symbol of their love and the sanctity of the marriage bond. When the couple is at peace, they lie in it quietly. When they are in turmoil the bedding is thrown about. But like the marriage, the bed remains solid and whole.

"The Fourposter" runs for 100 minutes with two intermissions. Except for one fight scene, not much happens on the stage physically. But Hartog’s witty dialogue, Lawrence’s smooth direction, and Weeks’ and Dickey’s spirited interpretation of their roles all serve to keep the play moving as swiftly as the years of our lives.

"The Fourposter" is not only great fun. It’s also highly therapeutic.


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