The path to reconciliation between Archer and Josie Connaught hacks its way through a jungle of recrimination, anger and sharp-tongued, family-wide antagonism in the Bellevue Little Theatre’s production of “Best of Friends.”
It is a worldly play, more than slightly tinged with cynicism as it transpires that Josie has kept a pivotal secret from her wealthy and philandering author-husband whose boundless predations, by his own confession, encompass hundreds of women.
It is considered a romantic comedy, and comedy there is — some of it memorably clever — but this is not a sweet or wistful story.
It is hard to feel sympathy for Archer Connaught, who never quite seems to grasp that he cannot have it all, indeed that he should not seek to have it all.
It is also hard to feel sympathy for his long-abandoned wife who seems to adopt too easily the lazy philosophy that boys will be boys and people who want to be together should be together, even if it means her husband abandons his family responsibilities for a leggy beauty.
It should be no spoiler to reveal that one way or another, through a mid-life epiphany or two, things resolve themselves. But the journey to the resolution is so fraught with bad feeling between husband and wife and between siblings that it’s hard to credit, and certainly hard to believe it can last.
Brian Witcher as Archer, and Janet Macklin as Josie navigate with skill the thorny path that the play’s author, James Elward, has set before them.
They must be antagonistic but not too much, both repentant and unrepentant, and adversarial while never permitting reconciliation to seem unachievable.
We have a BLT debutant in Marcus Benzel, who plays Archer’s son, Merril, with a frantic concern for his personal interests, and for an inheritance he believes is soon to be his given the widespread though inaccurate reports of his famous father’s death in a plane crash.
His worldliness strikes an amusing contrast with the hippie pose he strikes, along with his flower-child wife, Lib, played with a sweet hippie shyness by Amanda Overfield.
Angela Fick, a veteran of nine BLT productions, memorably including the key role of Laurey in “Oklahoma,” is back, this time as the beautiful if slightly floozy love interest of our philandering author.
There is humor in her portrayal of a student starstruck by a famous writer who also happens to be her professor, humor that sometimes contrasts jarringly with her intemperate rivalry with Mrs. Connaught.
Catherine DeLuca as the Connaughts’ daughter, Kate, is also a source of humor, frequently making jaundiced observations about people and their questionable motivations, perhaps a little unjustly, however, concerning Felix Heckaday, a young lawyer and would-be suitor played with fine comedic timing by another BLT regular, the well-named Alexander Hamilton.
Another welcome BLT newcomer is Tom Steffes, who plays an elderly judge (key to the plot, but no more shall be said here about that) with a wobbly infirmity not seen since Dick van Dyke stumbled onto the silver screen as the senior Mr. Dawes in “Mary Poppins.”
It was a pleasure, too, to see Bellevue’s own Melissa Jarecke back on the BLT stage, as Archer Connaught’s worldly wise literary agent. Like DeLuca and Hamilton she is blessed with some of the play’s best lines.
“Best of Friends” can be hard on the ear sometimes, with shouted recriminations much in the air, especially in the first act.
But there is a journey here, which perhaps many people have traversed during the course of familial life, and if we may agree with Emerson that life is a journey rather than a destination, then “Best of Friends” is a useful, often amusing, and ultimately cautionary road map.