Conceived, written and choreographed by Ruthe Ponturo, Til Divorce Do Us Part is a collection of musical numbers, each illustrating different aspects of divorce from the point of view of Kate (Erin Maguire), an affluent, white, middle-aged former wife whose husband left her for his young Pilates instructor. Whether or not you enjoy this light entertainment depends largely on your attitude. If you want to like it there are enough clever lyrics, comic observations, snappy musical numbers, and opportunities for laughter to justify this. The performers, adroitly directed by Mark Waldrop, are a pleasure to watch, and the set and lighting design are first rate. If, however, you come to this cabaret with a more critical mindset you are likely to find many valleys separating the peaks, both in terms of music and concept.
Performed on Mitchell Greenberg’s stage, which has the whimsical feel of a Las Vegas wedding chapel crossed with the set of The Dating Game, Divorce, scored by John Thomas Fischer (he also acts and plays piano), has a number of catchy tunes and well-conceived dance numbers; the Egyptian-themed “Denial” (as in “the Nile”), which has Kate “swimming” through a blue silk sheet, comes to mind. Julie Duro’s lighting design has the set continually changing color which is pleasing to the eye and nicely compliments the mood of individual songs. The creators succeed in creating a spectacle with some charm. And if your tastes are forgiving, and especially if you’re a like-minded, white, affluent, middle-aged divorcee, there’s a fair chance you’ll enjoy it.
For those with less forgiving tastes however, a good number of the 26 songs are forgettable, including the first three, which doesn’t make for an auspicious beginning. But perhaps more problematic overall is that Divorce has no sense of irony. We are never given an objective viewpoint from which to observe the characters. In this way the production is like propaganda – we are forced to agree with Kate’s position on everything, a position that is too often tenuous and lacking in insight and nuance.
- A song speaks plaintively about $600 an hour divorce attorneys and beach houses. Gee, how awful it must be to have to choose between the Hamptons house and the house in Connecticut. True, divorce is painful regardless of wealth, but Ponturo doesn’t have a single line acknowledging that maybe her protagonist doesn’t have it that bad.
- Never once does Kate acknowledge she did anything to precipitate the break-up; in her eyes she is wholly blameless, an innocent victim; Kate’s husband leaves her as the result of a moral deficiency on his part. The idea that divorce is natural or that it is caused by factors outside individuals’ control is never permitted.
- The issue of children is hardly touched upon and when it is the specifics are murky; we never know if they’re young or grown or what their reaction is to their parents splitting up.
- There’s a song about Kate’s best friends, Audrey (Gretchen Wylder) and Suzy (Dana Wilson), being unconditionally supportive; but never is there a mention of how destructive these supportive best friends can be to a romantic relationship.
- The idea that a rich man married to the same woman for 35 years might want someone new, someone younger, is seen as abnormal and utterly abhorrent (which, for some divorcees, may be a spot-on analysis), but the notion that maybe Kate’s ex-husband actually loves this younger woman and that perhaps she loves him back is never entertained.
Yes, this is a musical comedy revue, and succeeds on a superficial level. But it seems written for a target audience, an in-joke for affluent, white divorcees; much of the show feels like it’s laced with an agenda. Sometimes this agenda is hidden from view. But when it is visible it feels like one is watching three spoiled, rich, self-absorbed yentas kvetching.
Til Divorce Do Us Part
presented by Rosemary Kalikow,
Leslie Simpson, 3 Cats Productions,
and Dean A. Carpenter
103 East 15th Street at Union Square
scheduled to end on April 13. 2014
for tickets, call (212) 239-6200
or visit www.tildivorcethemusical.com