The Williamston Theatre’s 17th season begins with “On the Market,” by Jason Odell Williams, a roving, sentimental romp through middle-aged love — and the lack thereof. When widow Charlotte (Dani Cochrane) refuses to date two-and-a-half years after her husband’s passing, her small world starts to collapse.
This script for two men and two women, although not so tightly plotted — it is a rom-com, after all — contains some of the wittiest one-liners and most delightful dialogue as the main character tries to put herself back on the market and find love.
When Charlotte says, “Comparing the dates I’ve had to horses is an insult to horses,” we know we’re in for a fun little elevator ride through the hell that is online dating. The actors have fun with physical comedy, accents and portraying a variety of characters that fill out a whole world inside the intimate theater.
The central conflict in the play is Charlotte’s inability to move on. It becomes a project for her best friend Diane (Yolanda Davis), who takes drastic action to force Charlotte’s heart back open. But just like love, grief doesn’t have a timeline, and even though it’s been 29 months, Charlotte is waiting for a sign.
Anyone who has been through a breakup will relate to the well-meaning but painful way that people in relationships want you to get back out there and rush back to getting your heart broken again. There are no stakes for these folks, who are locked into commitments, and your ups and downs can quickly become a source of entertainment and obsession for your friends if you’re not careful. But finding someone to share your life with often happens when you’re busy getting your own house in order. Did I mention Charlotte is a realtor? She has plenty to unpack in this 90-minute show, performed without an intermission.
Rather than ending this review with callouts to the actors (excellent) and production staff (superb), I want to share a message from the theater’s administrative team. In his program notes, Board President Rob Roznowski celebrates 17 years of paying salaries to the professionals who perform and prop-master their hearts out on the Williamston Theatre stage. But he makes a plea for community members’ attendance as well because audience numbers have been slow to bounce back after the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are quite cozy these days, perhaps accustomed to our streaming services. Or maybe we would love to attend, but we are being squeezed by rising housing costs and inflation. For those of you who relate more to the former situation, I echo Roznowski’s request for your presence at the theater this season. Be a real one during the writer’s strike and turn off that Netflix comedy you’re barely paying attention to or the disturbing crime documentary that isn’t good for you anyway. The neighbors and friends performing stories on local stages are your people and your community. Won’t you join them? When the curtain comes down, the conversation is just beginning.
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