Round House’s ‘Becky Shaw’ is hilarious fun

Suzanna Slater (Alyssa Wilmoth Keegan) and Max Garrett (Will Gartshore) have an interesting friendship in Round House Theatre’s production of “Becky Shaw.” (Photo by Danisha Crosby)

Becky Shaw” is a must-see play, especially for 20- and 30-somethings who think they can wait until retirement for theater. Stop reading this review momentarily and buy a ticket to the Round House Theatre Bethesda, Md., production. Trust.

The play is a comedic public service announcement against matchmaking. Director Patricia McGregor pulled together a standout cast – perhaps the strongest at Round House this season. Empathetic Andrew (Rex Daugherty in an excellent Round House debut) sets up his fragile coworker, Becky Shaw, on a blind date with Max, a close family friend of his new wife Suzanna (Alyssa Wilmoth Keegan).

Two-time Helen Hayes Award winner for Best Actor, Will Gartshore, nails the role of debonair workaholic Max. The social climbing money manager is a likeable asshole. “I think if your father was more self-actualized, I’d have college loans.” He shirks at the thought of therapy. “That’s not action, that’s wallowing.” A cocky heartbreaker, he pooh-poohs love and committed relationships.

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Becky Shaw’s cast, from left, Andrew Porter (Rex Daugherty), Max Garrett (Will Gartshore), Becky Shaw (Michelle Six) and Suzanna Slater (Alyssa Wilmoth Keegan). (Photo by Danisha Crosby)

Suzanna’s mother Susan (a skilled Brigid Cleary) is a moneyed widow who rebounds with a younger lover. Max fondly recalls when Susan took him suit shopping as a young boy on the day of his mother’s funeral. She told him, “Your mother is dead and your father dresses you like a gay hustler.” Rather than upsetting Max, Susan’s candor saved him from embarrassing himself. Needless to say, Max developed a preference for reality checks to sympathy, and no one is safe from his truth telling, not even his blind date.

Gina Gionfriddo’s script merits the recognition it received as a 2009 Pulitzer Prize finalist. Her fast-paced dialogue is whip smart, laugh-out-loud funny and full of fizzy pop culture references. Audience members will be surprised how funny dour subjects like multiple sclerosis, suicide and infidelity can be. The characters are complex and not how they initially seem. This is most ominous in the title character, played by Michelle Six in her first Round House performance. Her facial expressions are perfect for her role.

The hilarious first act passes too quickly and intermission is an unwelcome interruption. The second act digs deeper into the nuanced complexities of the characters, but is just as enjoyable as the first. The play ends at the right moment without flimsily tying up loose ends. The audience leaves the theater wanting more of Gionfriddo, whose “Rapture, Blister, Burn” was honored as a Pulitzer Prize finalist for 2013.

“Becky Shaw” is playing at Round House Theatre Bethesda in Bethesda, Md., through June 23. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday performances start at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday shows begin at 8 p.m. Matinees are on Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets start at $10. For more information, call 240-644-1100.