Encountering Amaretti Angels at the Minnesota Fringe Festival was like encountering a sane man in a madhouse. The characters never sat beside you or talked to you, they never made self-referential jokes about Fringe buttons and low budgets, and they never paused to take off their clothes or update their software. The three actors stayed in character, stayed (mostly) in accent, and acted out a story about an estranged couple reuniting for dinner. What fun is that? Well, not as much fun as dancing robots, but sometimes you need a palate cleanser.
The couple, Mike and Jenny, are a British pair played by Edwin Strout and Jean Wolff. They’ve been married for decades, but have been separated while filmmaker Mike cavorts in America with his glamorous girlfriend. Their grown children include a daughter who’s engaged to be married, and Mike and Jenny are meeting at one of their old haunts to discuss the details. The third character on stage is waitress Sylvana (Rachel Finch), who serves as a kind of one-woman Greek chorus commenting on the couple’s conversation.
Over the course of Sarah Phelps’s play, the couple’s past is exhumed, painful memories revisited, and hopes for the future revealed. At the play’s climax, a sudden revelation forces an important decision. The decision is made, and the play ends. Did I mention there are no dancing robots?
The only surprises this script holds are the kind of surprises that aren’t really surprises, so the pleasures are to be found in the details. Phelps has some fun with Mike’s vanity and Jenny’s acid tongue, but she portrays the characters’ rapport as having been drained away years ago, so there’s really no suspense as to the way things between them will go. Wolff and Finch were well-cast by director David Schlosser, but though Strout earned a number of laughs, his broad bluster was no match for Wolff’s slow burn, and it was hard to believe that it ever could have been. After the hot chemistry between Wolff and Alan Sorenson in The Transdimensional Couriers Union, Amaretti Angels was weak tea.
Photo courtesy Minnesota Fringe Festival