Courting Divorce 

Master playwright crafts pleasing script from familiar premise.

Because the script is structurally modest (consisting of five lengthy scenes), it is something of an actor's showcase. Under the direction of Rusty Wilson, the six-member cast gets an opportunity to shine. And David McLain's minimalist sets and lighting schemes are perfect for a play that dips a toe into surrealism now and then.

At the beginning of the play, Celeste (Meghan Grady) tells Natalie (Molly Hood) about a degrading affair she is having with a married man. She begs Natalie to rip her to pieces and she obliges. The scene is notable for the restrained way it hints at Natalie's demons before an actual ghost (Ted Carter) appears from her past.

The second scene pokes at the wounds in Natalie's marriage to Henry (Beauregard Marie). Shanley fills out the thesis that people use the scars of previous relationships as razor-sharp weapons against their current mates.

In the second act, Henry plays straight man to Sidney (Scott Wichmann), a partner in Henry's law firm who has reprehensible ideas about marriage. In time, we get to see the product of these ideas in a brutal scene between Sidney and his wife (Erin Thomas).

Though the play doesn't unravel any mysteries about marriage, there are a number of nasty moments that may cut too close for comfort. And further demonstrating the supremacy of craft over creativity, Shanley even finds a way to end the play on a satisfying note.

The quality of a playwright goes beyond gold-plated plot ideas. It is also determined by the execution of more commonplace stories. Shanley received an Academy Award for "Moonstruck" and the Pulitzer Prize for "Doubt." This script doesn't belong in such rarefied company but the pedigree is unmistakable. S

Continues through Oct. 1 at the Firehouse Theatre, 355-2001. Tickets are $20.

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