Theater Review: "Any Given Monday" 

Firehouse Theatre's latest is bolstered by a comedic standout.

Even as the Firehouse Theatre Project considers a proposal to reinstate former artistic director Carol Piersol, the company has been staging "Any Given Monday" — because the show must go on, right?

Written by Bruce Graham, the play takes place in modern-day Philadelphia. Lenny's wife, Risa (Starlet Knight), has recently left him for a rich and powerful developer. While Lenny (David T. Zimmerman) is content to drown his sorrows in takeout food and wait for her to come home, his best friend, Mickey (Nicholas Aliff), has hatched a twisted plan to correct this wrong. Accompanying Lenny and Mickey on this warped quest is Lenny's college-age daughter, Sarah (Kerry McGee).

Aliff gives a tour-de-force performance as jumpy subway worker Mickey. His role is chock-full of off-color lines, and Aliff's comedic chops are flawless. With every twitch and gesture, Aliff creates a fully realized character, and his accent is pure Pennsylvania.

While Zimmerman looks the part of a forlorn husband, his acting doesn't always meet the demands of the character. In the show's final scenes, Zimmerman seems to run out of ways to express his exasperation, simply putting his hand on a wall while he mutters some exclamation. Knight fares somewhat better as Risa, but her performance is a bit stilted for a woman in the throes of an affair. McGee does good work as Sarah, but her role as a philosophy major largely is a framing device for the proceedings.

Shanea N. Taylor's direction is passable but doesn't handle the play's more serious scenes particularly well. Edwin Slipek's wood-paneled set is an authentic reproduction of the den every Pennsylvania home seems required to have by law (Slipek is a senior contributing editor at Style Weekly) and Holly Sullivan's costumes are appropriate for all characters, from Lenny's schlubby loungewear to Risa's put-together ensembles. Joey Luck's sound design smartly puts the noise of a televised football game behind the audience, better involving them in the real action.

While Graham's script has plenty of contemporary and irreverent humor, its message veers a little too close to the idea that women just want to be told what to do. Nevertheless, the show is hilarious. And bolstered by Aliff's brilliant performance, "Any Given Monday" has enough chutzpah to overcome its issues.

"Any Given Monday" plays through March 9 at the Firehouse Theatre Project, 1609 W. Broad St. Details at firehousetheatre.org or 355-2001.

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