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In Fishing, a Marriage Becomes a Question of Balance

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The set-up:

In the world premiere of Leighza Walker's first full-length play, Fishing, a marriage is in the doldrums but the husband finds solace in a platonic relationship with an attractive blond. The suspense lies in the question: how long can this delicate balance survive?

The execution:

There are five characters in this romantic drama, but three are principals: the wife Dana, the husband Grant, and Grant's best friend Meg. These are no visceral Neanderthals, but are instead intellectuals of the emotional life, analyzing and parsing their feelings with surgical skill. To write with intelligence about emotions, and to describe them with clarity, is no mean feat, but playwright Walker not only pulls this off, she excels at it. We see vividly Dana's dilemma, recognizing that her lower libido is a problem. We see Meg's attraction to Grant, with her flirtatious ways sending up flares that she wants to move beyond being soul-mates with Grant. And Grant seems satisfied with the status quo, but would rather not talk about it.

This tinderbox is set afire by Dana's decision to intervene in a manner that can be fairly described as manipulative. Since Meg's behavior is also highly manipulative, Grant becomes a pawn between two chess queens. Comfortable in being admired by his wife and an attractive woman, he is passive, seeking to hold on to what he has, but increasingly aware that is not going to happen - changes are afoot. The acting is first rate, and the characters are vividly drawn, but the motivations tend to be murky.

Meg is played by Mischa Hutchings, who is attractive and described as having an engaging vitality, so Meg should be a dude-magnet, but seems drawn only to married men. She thus becomes a candidate for therapy, or at least Sex Addicts Anonymous, but this possibility is unexplored. Dana is played by Margaret Lewis, and she conveys the dedication of a loving wife, but one devoid of a sense of play, so Grant's dream of sitting on a porch with her in their dotage seems not much fun, though it conveys Grant's trait of loyalty. Her attempted manipulation seems ill-fated from the start, and it's hard to see why she thought it a solution. Grant's motivations make the most sense -- he is enjoying the attention of two women, and just wants to leave things as they are, and Michael Weems captures the passivity and the comfort.

In a smaller role, Gina Williamson is excellent as Amy, Meg's common-sense and down-to-earth cousin, and Eddie Rodriguez equally good in a cameo role as Mac, another husband with masculine appeal being used by Meg. Playwright Walker also directed, and designed the set, which works well for various locales, and Meg's apartment is suitably amusing. The pace is quick, with pauses where appropriate, and the evening provides a gripping drama of three protagonists struggling with a dilemma, with each aware that someone is going to be hurt. There is some humor, but not much, as the main characters are severely self-centered, each with a thermometer embedded firmly in his or her heart to chart the emotional temperature. Perhaps that is their real problem. The verdict:

Vividly-drawn characters populate this romantic drama, and strong acting brings them to dramatic life, as two strong women compete for the heart of a man. See it to learn who wins.

Fishing continues through February 2, from Cone Man Running Productions, at Obsidian Art Space, 3522 White Oak. For ticketing or information, call 832-889-7837 or 281-773-3642 or contact the theater website.

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