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Couples Explore Love, Marriage, Morality in "Poor Behavior" at Falcon Theatre

A weekend in the country for two couples spins out of control. A quarrelsome comedy about love and marriage and what exactly constitutes morality definitely sounds like fodder for fierce and funny playwright Theresa Rebeck.

Poor Behavior plays Nov. 17-Dec. 2 at Newport’s Falcon Theatre, featuring a strong cast of indie theatre veterans and talented Lauren Carr directing.

Carr explains (tongue-in- cheek), “It’s a story about functioning dysfunctional couples in search simple human decency and maybe a chocolate muffin.”

Plot basics: Jealous Maureen (Torie Pate) makes reckless accusations about what she thinks is going on between her husband Ian (Phineas Clark) and their old friend Ella (Becca Howell). Ella’s husband Peter (Derek Snow) makes a futile attempt to control the domestic carnage.

Exactly whose idea was this weekend away?

Now there’s the question.

Clark muses, “One of the great questions within this play is whose idea the “weekend getaway” really was, and what the intent behind organizing it was. We see four characters with very different levels of awareness as to what’s going on and why it’s happening.”

Pate adds, “Everyone has their own version about how the decision came to be. Each character has their own reason for being here, and it's not just to have a relaxing weekend with friends.”

The entire cast applauds what Carr has brought to the production.

“I loved discussing the details of these couples’ relationships," Howell says. “Lauren really challenged us to delve into the backstory that is not volunteered in the text.”

Snow agrees. “What kinds of allergies do they have? What's their favorite food? Did they enjoy going to church as kids? These seem unimportant until you start building characters as actors and figuring out why you do what you do and say what you say,” he said.

They’re also fans of the playwright.

The word “challenge” comes up a lot.

Pate says, “I can see four people actually sitting down and having these conversations, using these words, talking over each other, trying to get our points across….

Poor Behavior is of-the-moment because it really has no moment. Yes, it's set in the present, but the themes of this play were relevant ten years ago, and they will still be relevant ten years from now.”

Howell likes “The primary theme of morality especially as applied to the world today feels very current. I also think Rebeck has written a play that challenges not only our contemporary conceptions or morality but also what makes a happy and healthy relationship. Those aspects feel very of-the-moment to me.”

Snow has had conversations on the play’s themes with friends and has found a lot of agreement with his contemporaries and younger people. “I think that the more casual nature in which society has embraced marriage and relationships is on full display in this play.

“There’s definitely a difference in how we perceive commitment and relationships, and this play really opens up that Pandora's box.”

They all agree that while Poor Behavior is a funny play, what’s going on is deeply serious to the characters.

“Relationships and friendships are put to the test,” says Howell.

Clark observes Poor Behavior is “very true in that it challenges us to see the humor in pain and the pain in humor.” 

Snow smiles. “The show is a balancing act of funny and deadly serious. It's so challenging.”

And this is a company that loves to be challenged.

Poor Behavior, Nov. 17-Dec. 2. Falcon Theatre, 636 Monmouth St. Newport. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Additional performance 8 p.m. Nov. 30. Tickets $22, students $15. 513 479-6783 and falcontheatre.net.

Written by Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts