Greg e Andrea são os anfitriões em um jantar de véspera de ano novo. O irmão de Greg, Lenny, decide pedir sua namorada Charlotte em casamento. Só há um pequeno problema: Charlotte e Greg estão apaixonados um pelo outro. O jornal STAR LEDGER indicou PLACE SETTING para melhor peça de 2007-2008, juntamente com peças de Edward Albee, Theresa Rebeck e Elaine May.
Dramaturgia Jack Canfora
Direção Evan Bergman
Elenco David Bishins, Jack Canfora, Guenia Lemos, Peter Macklin, Carol Todd &
  Kristen Moser
Direção de Produção Rose Riccardi
Assistência de Produção Liz Mauer
Iluminação Jill Nagle
Figurino Patricia E. Doherty
Cenário & Adereços Jessica Parks
Sonoplastia Jessica Paz
Coreógrafo de Luta Brad Lemons
Diretor Técnico Quinn K. Stone
Acessor de Imprensa Richard Hillman
Diretor Artístico SuzAnne Barabas
Diretor Administrativo Gabor Barabas
Realização NJ Repertory Company
PLACE SETTING teve sua estréia mundial no Lumia Theatre, em Long Branch, 2007.
"Place Setting" is comedy for a new millennium
Tom Chesek

DEC. 31, 1999: the night of the Millennium Bug. You remember it: Planes were going to fall from the sky; markets would crash and take every desktop Dell with them. Clubs and restaurants sat empty as Americans bunkered down at home, counting down their post-apocalyptic fate.

It's an altogether different but equally insidious virus that invades the suburban New Jersey household of Andrea (Carol Todd) and Greg (Jack Canfora) in "Place Setting," Canfora's seriocomic ensemble piece currently in its world premiere engagement at New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch. Fortified by ample stocks of wine and vodka, the tag-team bugaboos of brutal honesty and lapsed inhibitions wreak havoc on this New Year's Eve get-together — with guilt, despair and self-delusion pushing back from the other side.

If actor-playwright Canfora's script never quite parties like it's 1999 (these characters are too numbingly civilized to go all Sam Shepard on the set), it does hark back to a point in time — America's Last Age of Innocence? — when we seemingly had nothing to fear but a VCR-clock meltdown. While the play's six characters laugh off the millennial hysteria, the unspoken suggestion that life as we know it could end at midnight causes these people to behave in some interesting ways.

Invited into Andrea and Greg's tasteful kitchen and dining room are Greg's brother Lenny (David Bishins) and his smart and sexy girlfriend Charlotte (Guenia Lemos), as well as Andrea's sharp-tongued sister Laura (Kristen Moser) and her date, a German documentary filmmaker named Richard (Peter Macklin). While the characters manage to keep up the small talk in the early minutes of the play, it's when the party moves to the offstage living room that the fun begins, with the kitchen becoming the setting for a series of furtive trysts, desperate advances, teary confessions and barely-bottled hatreds.

The accomplished director Evan Bergman stages the opening moments of the first act as a sequence of stills frozen in flashbulbs, and the able cast of players (many of them new to NJ Rep's stage) accomplish a great deal within what is after all merely an extended snapshot from the lives of some very unhappy people. Only Macklin, with his artsy hairdo and freely dispensed Euro-contempt, seems out of sync in a virtually thankless part — why the self-important Richard needed to be German is hard to fathom, when the whole "downtown-vs.-suburbia" thing offers more than enough opportunity for conflict in the first place.

Playwright Canfora gives actor Canfora many of the script's funniest lines — not because Jack is an applause hog, but because his Greg is a frustrated guy who often floats a joke when a heartfelt word would have sufficed. He and brother Lenny know all the best lines from the movies, while their own ongoing interpersonal drama seems stuck in the silent era — and Greg performs his role as supportive spouse to Andrea as if reading from cue cards.

It's the seductive Charlotte who makes her face-time with Greg count ("I feel like I have to crash into people to feel I know them") — and Lemos brings an energy to her limited-time part that promises big things for the Brazilian-born pepperpot. Meanwhile, it's Lenny who is actually much more apt to spill his guts to Andrea ("I sound like I'm in a Merchant-Ivory movie . . . let me be a little more Scorsese about this") — an odd choice of confidante, as the mistress of the house is all about keeping it tidy.

Last seen here in the provocative "Whores," Carol Todd positions herself at the center of this production, by virtue of a solid performance as a woman to whom even domestic upheaval must occur on a clearly delineated timetable, and under a coded sort of etiquette. As outfitted down to the last tucked-away mixing bowl by Jessica Parks, Andrea's precisely-ordered kitchen is an extension of her own mechanisms for survival in an uncertain world — a place where there's but one way to load the dishwasher, and where a successful dinner means "everything comes out at the same time" (and boy, does it ever).

As the embittered Laura proclaims, "It's the new millennium . . . we're entitled to a few new rules."

No secrets in N.J. Repertory's New Year's comedy
Peter Filichia

Remember Y2K?

It crosses the minds of all six characters who are celebrating New Year's Eve 1999 in "Place Setting." Jack Canfora's funny and fascinating play, at the New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch, soon shows that these people had nothing to fear.

Not from a computer meltdown, anyway. They certainly have plenty to worry about as secret after secret is revealed. They pile on so high that the play rivals a soap opera for the sheer number of complications.

What separates "Place Setting" from daytime TV, though, is that Canfora has wonderfully incisive wit -- and he tells the truth about how 21st century men and women view relationships and marriages.

Andrea and Greg are the evening's hosts. Laura, Andrea's sister, has brought her terribly pretentious German filmmaker boyfriend, Richard. He's furious that Laura has taken him out of the city and to -- horrors! -- the New Jersey suburbs. (Many plays have Jersey jokes. This one has Jersey insults.)

Also on hand are Lenny -- Greg's brother -- and his longtime girlfriend, Charlotte. Andrea surmised Lenny would buy Charlotte an engagement ring for Christmas; that didn't happen, but Charlotte doesn't seem concerned.

When the audience discovers why, the play kicks into high gear. Evan Bergman's skillful and secure direction is one reason, but Canfora left nothing to chance. He's full of fresh-sounding lines for his characters: "Your marriage is a china shop waiting for a bull." "I have an empty feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever I do the right thing." "I look at the best moments of my life and realize that none of them were good for me."

Plenty of truths emerge in the two-hour play because "in vodka veritas.''

The second act, which takes place the morning after, is slower in feel, as hangovers take their toll. Canfora keeps the dialogue clear-eyed as he examines the ramifications of lust in one's heart (and other places). He doesn't flinch from pointing out that spouses are disappointed by those they marry, because day-to-day life forces one to know a mate far too well.

Canfora's in the play, too, and makes an affable Greg. Carol Todd gives an exceptionally unmannered performance as Andrea, the model homemaker. (Jessica Parks gives her handsome set on which to ply her trade.) Todd is magnificent when she offers a startlingly different point of view on loyalty in marriage.

As Laura, Kristen Moser does beautifully with a speech in which she learns that if she gets a tattoo, laser surgery can remove it easily and without scarring. Just like marriage, she realizes; nothing is permanent these days.

Peter Macklin has the right insufferable qualities for Richard, and adds a pungent accent. Lenny is a character who must run through a gantlet of emotions, and David Bishins succeeds at every signpost. Guenia Lemos impressively captures Charlotte's many amoral qualities.

En route, there's some talk about New Year's resolutions. Theatergoers who didn't make any should resolve now to see "Place Setting."

Millennium Madness
Jade Greene

Flash! The startling illumination a smiling group that dissolved into darkness as instantaneously as it had appeared. Flash! Another grouping. Flash! Another. Like snapshots in a family photo album the clever tableaux bring you to another time and place. The time: New Year’s Eve, 1999. The place: Suburbia, NJ. I caught myself smiling at my own millennium memories for a moment, but when the light came up full and the talented cast of “Place Setting” by Jack Canfora began slinging witty barbs at each other, I was theirs.

The play’s action takes place in the kitchen/dining area of Andrea and Greg’s home. They have invited two other couples to a gourmet feast: Andrea’s sister Laura and her boyfriend Richard, and Greg’s brother Lenny and his girlfriend Charlotte. Once past the aforementioned witty barbs interspersed with character exposition, the plot thickens: Most of the party retires to the living room leaving Charlotte and Greg alone to express their secret longings for each other. What was it about the millennium that instilled in so many of us a desire for drastic change? One by one the members of the ensemble express that desire. Some of them act upon it, some of them don’t, but it’s the struggle between those desires and the need to do the right thing that makes for compelling theatre in this well-written piece.

Kudos to director Evan Bergman for keeping the pace brisk, the objectives clear, and the connections between the characters crackling. Speaking of characters, all six were played quite truthfully and multi-dimensionally by the well cast ensemble. The play’s author, Jack Canfora, does double duty as the party-host, Greg, who morphs from Mr. Easygoing Nice Guy into a frustrated husband with suppressed desires. Carol Todd plays his wrapped too tight Stepford wife, Andrea, with chilling cheeriness, but later thaws to expose her strong, inner self. Charlotte, played by Guenia Lemos, is a restless soul desperate for passion in her life, in love with love, and the stunning Lemos is more than up to the task. David Bishins playing her boyfriend, Lenny, is wonderful as a lovable lug who quotes lines from famous films with his brother, then suffers a meltdown when he discovers Greg and Charlotte’s betrayal. As Andrea’s sister, Laura, Kristen Moser played a fiercely independent woman starting to rethink her position. Peter Macklin’s Richard is hilarious as Laura’s arrogant and opinionated German documentary filmmaking boyfriend. The cast’s collective chemistry and sense of humor are what make the production sail.

The set by Jessica Parks was amazingly realistic down to the running water and hardwood floor. Jill Nagle, responsible for the interesting snapshot effect that opened the show, kept the lighting nicely bright while still flattering to the actors. Sound effects were impressively true-to-life at the hands of sound designer Jessica Paz. Costuming by Patricia E. Doherty was character enhancing all around.

This was my inaugural visit to the Lumia Theatre and I must say I was impressed by the obvious care taken by the NJ Rep to provide its audiences with quality entertainment. Congratulations to Artistic Director SuzAnne Barabas and Executive Producer Gabor Barabas, for their successful efforts.

The New Jersey Repertory Company is located at 179 Broadway in Long Branch. “Place Setting” runs now through June 24th. Performances are Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 3pm & 8pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets at $35 with discount for students, seniors and groups. For reservation call 732-229-3166 or purchase your tickets online at and through

"Place Setting"
Simon Saltzman

It is New Years Eve 1999. Families and friends are gathered to celebrate the end on one millennium and the start of another. The big question on most everyone's mind is not necessarily whether computers will malfunction, but whether their clock radio, TV, or automatic coffee maker will freak out.

In Jack Canfora's cleverly constructed and smartly written domestic comedy/drama Place Setting, the lives of three couples in their 30 somethings are more inclined to go awry than the technology around them. Canfora's characters have been variously positioned to segue into the morning after the night before with a maximum of discomfort, stress and anxiety.

Andrea (Carol Todd) and Greg (Jack Cantora, yes, the play's author) are throwing a New Years Eve dinner party in their suburban home to welcome in the New Year. Andrea has worked frenetically to prepare an elegant dinner for her slightly younger sister Laura (Kristen Moser), Greg's slightly older brother Lenny (David Bishins) and their respective dates. The meal has been a success. But it doesn't take long for Laura's beau Richard (Peter Macklin) to begin displaying his true colors as an intolerably condescending, smug and obnoxious German documentary film maker ("Suburbia. It does things to people. They should hang a sign outside of the Lincoln tunnel — Welcome to New Jersey — suicide is a technicality").

It seems that Laura, an emotionally volatile woman, has a history of picking the wrong man. Then there is picking the wrong women issue. It only takes a few minutes alone with Greg in the kitchen for Lenny's absolutely gorgeous girlfriend Charlotte (Guenia Lemos) to lust after her host, whose carnal interest in her is also apparently rife with history.

Of course, Andrea's attempt to run a smooth, convivial and conflict free dinner party for those closest and dearest to her is bound to run amok considering that she has previously discovered an incriminating letter written by her husband to Charlotte and now feels obliged to share it with Lenny. Lenny, however, has already asked Charlotte to marry him. There is a bit of the Alan Ayckbourne style afoot as the convolutions of the evening and following morning becomes springboards for a potential marital breakup and grievous romantic betrayals.

Richard's disdain for the others and his growing disaffection for Laura escalate with the same intensity as does Charlotte's attempt to get Greg to leave his wife. It wouldn't be cricket to reveal more of the plot, except to say that the plot is fueled by Andrea's announcement that she is going to have a baby, Laura's inclination to go out and get a tattoo and also be more than a sister-in-law to Greg, and Lenny's revelation that his fiancée has a history (there's that word again). The theme could be summed up as "you always hurt the one you love."

Canfora, who skillfully embraces both acting and writing, may not leave any of the characters unscarred or unscathed, but we are certainly kept alert and empathetic to their quandaries. This is especially true of Andrea, as played with stoic resolve by Todd. Canfora credibly expresses Greg's notable lack of character in the face of his gullibility. Bishins is excellent as the humiliated but love-sick Lenny. Moser makes the most of her role as the unsettled Laura. As Richard, Macklin achieves his goal to be reviled and conversely Lemos, as Charlotte, has no competition when it comes to being magnetically seductive.

Director Evan Bergman, whose most recent credit is Off Broadway's Machiavelli, keeps a firm grip on the slender threads that bridge the interplay between the comical and the poignant as well as on the well executed timing of exiting and re-entering characters that lose little time exposing their transparency as well as their transgressions. Designer Jessica Parks has designed the kitchen area so that the properties don't get in the way of the improprieties. This world premiere may not have the dramatic heft necessary for the Big Apple, but it is sure to please the audiences at the New Jersey Rep. and other regional theaters.

Dinner party becomes something deeper in "Place Setting"
Milt Berstein

"Place Setting," a world premiere and the newest offering of the New Jersey Rep at the Lumia Theater of Broadway right here in Long Branch, is a two-act family drama set in suburbia, but with a twist. Even as it purports to show a normal New Year's Eve gathering in December of 1999, on the eve of the new millenium, with two brothers as well as two sisters included in the six people dining together, it takes no time at all for eroticism, lust, and duplicity to show itself.

From that point on, we are entertained with a fast-moving, series of encounters between the "guilty" parties and their apparent "victims," and culminating the next morning. New Year's Day 2000, in an ending which not everyone attending believes to be ideal.

The extremely capable cast of couples includes Jack Canfora, author of the play, as Greg, the dinner's host; Carol Todd as Andrea, his home-loving wife; Kristen Moser as Andrea's sister, Laura; Peter Macklin as Laura Soho-snobbish escort Richard; David Bishins as host Greg's brother Lenny; and Guenia Lemos, recently featured in NJ Rep's production before this, as seductress-par-excellence Charlotte.

The play has been superbly directed by Evan Bergman. Then too, the scene design of Greg and Andrea's shining kitchen, by Jessica Parks, is outstanding and worth alone the price of admission.

This eminently watchable and enjoyable show can be seen through June 24.

Appetizing New Play In Long Branch
Philip Dorian

Part of the considerable appeal of Jack Canfora's Place Setting lies in the way the play is constructed. The highly entertaining play unfolds like a gift package revealing its contents little by little as it's unwrapped. In the opening scene, six people at a dinner table reveal just enough about themselves to spark interest. In the scenes that follow, they break out into combinations of twos and threes and those sparks ignite. It's a neat trick - hardly a gimmick - that keeps the audience ‘in-the-know,' one step ahead of the characters. Maybe.

Married couple Andrea and Greg (Carol Todd and playwright Canfora) are hosting New Year's Eve 1999 at their suburban home. The guests are Greg's brother Lenny (David Bishins), his two-year girlfriend Charlotte (Guenia Lemos), Andrea's sister Laura (Kristen Moser) and Richard, Laura's date.

A 30-ish married couple whose values rarely coincide; one pair each of brothers and sisters (ditto); a needy, sexy girlfriend; a nasty-tempered boyfriend; and great quantities of New Year's celebratory wine: A fun party to observe, if not to attend. (And they said Y2K was a dud.)

The play straddles the line between domestic comedy and kitchen drama. Most of what happens is hardly funny; deceit, betrayal and bitterness fill the air, but it's written in a blend of smart, pointed sarcasm and light, jokey wit. For all their resentments and jealousies, these partygoers - nasty boyfriend excepted - really do like one another.

The plot-mover of Place Settings, an illicit attraction, is revealed early and comes as no surprise. What saves the enterprise from lapsing into cliché is the sharp dialogue and characters that have real depth. The situation isn't particularly original, but these characters deal with it and with one another in unexpected ways. To say that Place Settings holds one's attention may seem like mild praise, but eagerness for the second act to begin is an all-too-rare intermission preoccupation.

The acting, under the trusting direction of Evan Bergman, is excellent. Andrea isn't quite desperate, but this housewife's calm perfectionism barely masks the frustrations that lurk below the surface. Ms. Todd acts that subtext to perfection. If Todd weren't so very good, Andrea's brief, overdue outburst wouldn't resonate as it does. Andrea's sister Laura is something of a lovable loser, but she's a survivor, who, not incidentally, also has many of Canfora's best lines, including one about the holidays being "a relationship crucible… never start sleeping with someone between Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day if you want it to work." Ms. Moser's is another multi-layered performance; her Laura might be needy, but she's far from a pushover. The emotion-charged sister-scenes are scarily authentic.

Acting in one's own play may not be the wisest choice, but Canfora's take on Greg is no ego trip. As the conflicted husband who has a lot of experience "saying things I later regret," Canfora finds the ultimate sadness in Greg's flawed character. Greg's brother Lenny is sadder yet in other ways, but Bishins turns it around and ends up above the fray.

Lenny's would-be fiancée would seem to be the least complex character, but as you learn more about Charlotte you realize how deftly Ms. Lemos plays her. More aware than anyone else in the play of her own formidable sex appeal, Charlotte comes on strong, only to be revealed late as a fraidy-girl, a trait Lemos had set up very well.

Set designer/decorator Jessica Parks deserves her own paragraph. Place Settings boasts the most attractive, workable kitchen/dining-area this side of House Beautiful.

The play isn't perfect. A convenient, hokey purloined-letter device strains credulity; and the second act resolution scenes are overlong. But this is Place Settings's first fully staged production; it shouldn't be its last.

"Place Setting" Eavesdrops on a New Year's Eve Family Dinner
Bob Rendell

Place Setting, the world premiere comedy-drama at New Jersey Rep, is set on December 31, 1999. The setting is the kitchen and dining room of the comfortable, middle class New Jersey home of Greg and his wife, Andrea. The acerbic Greg, who had ambitions to be a writer, is an ad writer. Less sharp, but pleasanter Andrea is a distractingly fussy housewife (I've heard that last word objected to by one who said that it wrongly one as being married to a house. If that is true, then it aptly describes Andrea).

Two other couples are with them for a family dinner prior to the expected arrival of additional guests. Greg's close, less acerbic brother Lenny is accompanied by his sharp-looking girlfriend Charlotte. Lenny identifies himself as being in "human resources," and Charlotte is an assistant editor. Andrea's sister Laura, an East Village, counter-culture type, has brought along her new boyfriend Richard, a pretentious, pompously assured purveyor of misinformation who identifies himself as an independent film director.

It appears apparent from this set-up that feuds and crises will comprise the entire play. And, in that respect, author Jack Canfora delivers that which is expected. The major crisis is that Charlotte is in the process of seducing the sorely tempted Greg into leaving Andrea. Matters are further complicated when Lenny proposes to Charlotte and takes her evasion of an answer as a "yes".

Place Setting boasts sharp, crisp, and richly humorous dialogue. Its story and recognizable characters engage our interest and emotions throughout (even though most of the characters are supremely selfish).

There is much food for thought here, largely concerning the complex nature of marital relationships. Author Canfora seems to suggest that settling for less than everything that one wants in a marriage is terribly sad, and that all marital issues need be confronted and worked out.

Author Jack Canfora portrays Greg with a boyish likeability. Canfora has given himself the lion's share of the play's barbed one liners (after all, Greg is an acerbic wise guy), and his comic timing and phrasing make the most of them. Carol Todd brings a great deal of honesty and nuance. Her Andrea is properly a mite annoying, yet gains sympathy for her determined actions. (The motivation for her launching a missile at Lenny is unclear and does undermine our sympathy for her. However, I think that it is the author who has some work to do here.)

David Bishins as Lenny runs the table believably, delivering a full range of emotional colors. Guenia Lemos performs with a easy and likeable sensuality. Given that Charlotte is most coldly selfish (to Greg – "Your brothers going to be betrayed and your wife broken, and it doesn't matter"), Lemos has to perform with tremendous appeal to enable us to accept Greg's temptation. Lemos has one especially clever line, "Your marriage is like a china shop, waiting for a bull." Kristen Moser has a likeable, slightly ditzy take on Laura, and Peter Macklin is deadpan funny as Richard. I couldn't quite identify his accent, but that may have been intentional for this phony filmmaker.

Director Evan Bergman has kept a lively pace, directed traffic well, and elicited fine performances all around. The richly detailed (with a fully loaded kitchen), and most attractive and playable set is by Jessica Parks. The excellent costumes by Patricia E. Doherty are especially effective in conveying the differing styles of the women and are flattering to boot.

Place Setting is neither unconventional nor particularly original, but it does provide witty, involving and thought provoking entertainment.

"Place Setting"
Gary Wien

Summer theater at the Jersey Shore used to mean another round of Broadway musical revivals, but that was before NJ Repertory Theatre made Broadway in Long Branch a place where new works were introduced year round - including the summer season. The company's latest play is "Place Setting" by Jack Canfora, which is making its world premiere after a series of readings.

The comedy/drama revolves around three couples spending New Year's Eve together at the dawn of the new millennium in a typical suburban New Jersey house. The idea of being in the suburbs is very important to the plot. The house is the home of Andrea and Greg who are joined by Greg's brother Lenny and his girlfriend Charlotte as well as Andrea's sister Laura and her German filmmaker boyfriend Richard.

Richard, played by Peter Macklin, is one of the most irritating characters you will ever see. He's an "artist" who despises everything about the suburbs and puts down people at every chance. You can practically hear the audience grown after the first time he "corrects" someone at the dinner table. His corrections would continue all night and cause tension between the guests who want to remain polite, but find it harder and harder to do so.

Greg, played by Jack Canfora who also wrote the play, works as an ad writer but has never given up on his dream to be a real writer of fiction. Richard's subtle attacks on him lead to an instead hatred of his dinner guest while his brother's girlfriend (played by Guenia Lemos who previously starred in NJ Rep's "Love & Murder") causes him a conflict of an entirely different version.

The play largely centers around the idea of dreams and being trapped - whether in a job, a relationship, or simply... the suburbs. "Place Setting" is often hilarious but it is also much more than a situational comedy. There are some really heavy themes - adultry, revenge, depression - at play here as well. The blend leads to an entirely entertaining new work, which should hit home to many people in the audience (whether the play's content deals with them or someone they know).

Speaking of the audience, it was very refreshing to see about 3/4 of the audience raise their hands when Gabor Barabas asked, in his pre-show talk, how many people were visiting NJ Rep for the first time.

The play is full of wonderful one-liners throughout and the brothers often recite lines and scenes from their favorite movies like "The Godfather". This is most definitely a contemporary play and feels almost like an updated version of what might have happened if the characters in an 80s film like "St. Elmo's Fire" got together to celebrate New Year's Eve a decade later.

Canfora does a great job of transferring the idea of suburbia - a place where everything looks nice but nobody's ever really happy because deep down something is seriously wrong - with the character of Andrea (played by Carol Todd). She is the ultimate hostess nightmare and a poster child for Suburbia. Even though she knows her husband hasn't been happy in their marriage and suspects him of cheating on her, she manages to go along every day as the model suburban wife pretending that nothing is wrong.

"Don't blame me if you feel the need to bend down and pray three times a day in the direction of the nearest Home Depot," said Richard during a fight with Laura. "In the words of John Lennon, it ain't me babe!"

"IT WAS BOB DYLAN!" his girlfriend correct him. God you're nasty when you're drunk."

"And you're boring when I'm sober," he retorted.

Lenny (played by David Bishins) is the sort of person who knows Suburbia isn't all that it should be but recognizes it's values as well. At one point when Richard says that growing up in the suburbs has restricted Laura's ability to full express herself, Lenny responds, "But, in defense, there's always plenty of ample parking".

His girlfriend is almost the opposite of him. The sexy Charlotte is like the girl that doesn't belong in Suburbia but doesn't resent being there either. She's the type that leads a boyfriend to constantly worry and for good reason.

Laura (played by Kristen Moser) is a wonderful character. She's the type that never seemed to fit in with her family and finds ways to keep screwing up her life, but she never gives up. "I look back on the best moments of my life and none of them were good for me," she says.

In the end, Lenny pretty much sums up the night. "I never thought I'd say this... but, so far, I miss the 90s."

"Place Setting" has a very quick, fluid movement to it. Premieres generally feel like the beginning of a play's life and show hints of places where changes will be made, but this time around the play feels as though it's already been through that stage. It's not only ready for prime time now, but it's not difficult to imagine it moving on to that other Broadway someday. Congrats to NJ Rep for once again proving that great theatre need not take the summer months off.

"Place Setting"
Frank J. Avella

New Jersey Rep has taken another chance, and it has paid off in an incisive and penetrating new play written by Jack Canfora.

Set on the eve of the new millennium (the much-ballyhoo’d 1999 into 2000, not the real new millennium for those geeks who care), Place Setting focuses on a dinner party and it’s aftermath. The bash is tossed by a freakishly controlling Andrea (Carol Todd) and her henpecked husband Greg (the playwright Jack Canfora). Andrea’s spunky and verbose sister Laura (Kristen Moser) is in attendance with her pretentious German filmmaker-wannabe beau Richard (a hilarious Peter Maclin). Rounding out the ‘table’ are Greg’s sweet but dull brother Lenny (David Bishins) and his stunning girlfriend Charlotte (Guenia Lemos).

As the witty barbs fly, we become privy to the fact that Greg and Charlotte are secretly in love. This revelation is the springboard for the rest of the play’s action.

Nicely directed by Evan Bergman, Place Setting cleverly manages to touch on some very important and universal themes such as the need for passion in one’s life vs. the allure of complacency and stagnation. Fears are exposed, marital and otherwise and Canfora balances the comedy and drama with ease. And his love of film comes through as well, which made this critic gleeful.

Kristin Moser stands out in a stellar cast. Her Laura is filled with anger, resentment and longing (and we can understand why she is so bitter once we spend a bit of time with her sister Andrea!) Moser is killer with comedy yet handles the more poignant and dramatic moments with equal conviction. She basically steals every scene she is in. Someone get this gal a sitcom!

The Andrea character is difficult to stomach, partly because she’s a calculating and manipulative bitch, partly because she’s trying to hold on to something the audience feels she has no right having. Todd does a fine job with her and even manages to eke out some sympathy from us.

Canfora wears both hats quite impressively. I had no idea that the funny and charismatic actor onstage had also written the play. There’s nothing showy about his performance.

Lemos’ Charlotte is a feisty, desperate figure who craves love and passion. The play, unfortunately, does her a great disservice by making her disappear completely in Act Two, yet tosses out quite damaging character dialogue that Charlotte is never allowed to address. Consequently, Lemos’ rich performance is undercut once we are led to believe she’s a vamp.

My only complaint is with the very final moment of the play where Andrea does something so very against her character, it pulled me out. Otherwise the play and the production rocks!

Kudos again to New Jersey Repertory Company for continuing to present exciting new work in a state where theatre companies are usually reviving Godspell for the seven thousandth time and wondering why they have no patrons!