"You have a gift for bringing people to life - even the most unlikely ones," Edward (Dave Blamy) tells Allison (Johanna Jowett) in the romantic comedy "Embraceable Me," now playing at the Stage Door Theater. He's referring to her journalistic profile-writing abilities, but it's obvious he's also talking about her impact on him.
Jowett and Blamy have the same effect with Victor Cahn's script. Both actors are so talented and bring so much to the table that they elevate a superficial and fairly drama-free script to a compelling and moving theatrical experience.
As the play begins, Allison has come to tell Edward about her engagement to another man. She's hoping there is enough left of their own romance that Edward will change her mind. The story then unfolds in a "he said, she said" manner. Both characters narrate their version of the events that led up to their friendship, passionate romance, awkward breakup and potential reconciliation. There are flashes of "When Harry Met Sally" and "Same Time, Next Year."
The show's dialogue is bracketed by direct addresses from Jowett and Blamy, with many asides to the audience. As directed by Eric Parness, the transitions from monologue to scene are seamless and never feel forced or clumsy. A clever set by Gillian Albinski showcases the differences between Allison and Edward. One side is Edward's precise home with its orderly bookcases and the other is Allison's pig sty of an apartment with dirty clothes and papers covering every surface.
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She's a social butterfly who loves to meet new people and experience new things. Allison goes into television journalism after college and becomes a famous entertainment news anchor. Edward is practically an agoraphobe, happy with quiet nights at home and reading a good book. It's telling that the job he ends up in is as a ghostwriter - perfect for the man who often wishes he were invisible.
Blamy has a rangy, hangdog charm as second-banana Edward. This personable actor inspires you to root for him even when spouting bad puns or telling Allison he doesn't want children because "they have no sense of irony." His comedic timing is excellent and he also can be particularly moving, especially when talking about his difficult parental relationship or visiting Allison in the hospital.
Jowett, seen most recently in the satirical musical revue "Charlotte Squawks," gives a beautifully nuanced performance as the flighty, conflicted Allison. She is immensely likable and charismatic and it's easy to see how a loner like Edward would be captivated. Jowett is equally adept at comedy and drama - and we see the dark side of her bubbly nature more than once in this play.
Blamy and Jowett have real chemistry and a true respect for one another that makes their characters' journey one of hope for the enduring power of friendship and love.