Actors Josh Morrison and Susan Koozin have been married off and on for a long time, at least on stage. The first time was about 14 years ago when the pair played a couple in what was Morrison's first main stage production at Stages Repertory Theatre. The most recent on-stage marriage is as part of the comedy Sexy Laundry, the company's latest production. Stages Artistic Director Kenn McLaughin is in the director's chair for Laundry, the story of a long-married couple on the brink of separating.
"I'm Henry Lane, an engineer," Morrison tells us. "He's at a crossroads in his life. As life often does with us, the responsibilities of having a family, a wife and children, and a home and a mortgage, makes us more cautious, more conservative. He's certainly less of a risk-taker at the start of the play."
Koozin, a Stages audience favorite last seen in The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical, plays Alice, Henry's wife. She feels their relationship is in a rut and she's checked the couple into a luxury hotel in order to recapture the spark the pair once had. "While Henry and Alice are seemingly at odds with one another, the two actually want the same thing," says Morrison.
"There's no bad guy in this show. One of the things that the playwright has done is not put a bad light on either person. They're so close to wanting the same thing and yet it never quite aligns in the right way, a happy marriage. But how they go about achieving that, is very different. Alice wants him to send flowers and take her dancing. Henry, on the other hand, doesn't understand the point of flowers and he can't dance. He thinks, 'It should be understood that I love you. Is it absolutely necessary for me to tell you that I love you?'" According to Alice, yes, it is.
Morrison says he likes Henry despite his seeming obliviousness to his wife's needs. Morrison has been married for more than a decade now and says that much of Sexy Laundry rings true. "I think he and Alice want the same thing but as often happens in long-term relationships you forget how to communicate. Instead of actually asking real questions, it becomes superficial. It's 'How was your day?' as opposed to 'What were some of the specific events in your day that made you happy, that made you sad?' That's what's happened with them."
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At one point near the end of the play the couple has a heated argument. She storms off to the bathroom and Henry decides he's leaving. As he's making his way out of the room, he accidentally turns the music on. And the no-dancing Henry decides to take a chance - he starts dancing.
"Even though he can't dance, he tries it. In the middle of the dance he stops and orders a bottle of champagne. All along he's been complaining about the cost of this hotel that they've check into and all the money everything's costing them. He swallows all of that and orders this bottle of champagne to surprise Alice. That's a major turning point for him."
Henry begins to understand that he's been taking Alice for granted. "A marriage and a relationship is about compromise. And compromise isn't a bad word. Being together in a relationship doesn't mean you do everything together or do everything the same way as each other. By the end of the play he's realized that the smallest gestures can have the biggest impact."
See Sexy Laundry at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Through March 16. 3201 Allen Parkway. For information, call 713-527-0123 or visit stagestheatre.com. $15 to $49.