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EMAV Review - 2 Across: A Comedy of Crosswords and Romance ★★★✩✩

★★★✩✩ - Satisfying

Theatre in the Valley (based in the Henderson community since 1993) is presenting a very satisfying 3-Star production of 2 Across: A Comedy of Crosswords and Romance, through May 1st.

The audience quickly learns that there’s no need for internet dating, singles bars, or expensive cruises. Jerry Mayer’s present day romantic comedy proves that it’s still possible to meet and fall in love in an hour and a half in the most unlikely of places: the 4:30 a.m. BART train from San Francisco International Airport on its way to Bay Point!

Two strangers, a psychologist (most stylishly portrayed by Terri Gandy) and an unemployed ad man (embodied very casually and comfortably by Clay Kuykendall) find themselves alone on a San Francisco commuter train at 4:30 a.m., each doing their New York Times crossword puzzles. But before their crosswords are solved, they find that they may have solved the puzzles of each other’s lives.

Janet arrives first and settles into a nice empty car, picking up a crossword puzzle. All this uptight, mace-packing psychologist wants right now is a little peace and quiet. She is Catholic, structured, responsible, a good mother and usually right. She's an achiever whose standards are high and her patience is low. As a psychologist, she's blunt and honest. She's a law abider and a rule follower. Everything she attempts, she does well, except for one thing, she’s got to learn about how to have fun.

She is not thrilled when happy-go-lucky Josh invades “her” territory, even less when he asks her to move, claiming she is occupying his “lucky seat.” To shut him up, she moves, though she’s obviously not happy about it.

Josh is Jewish and a paradox. He's part free spirit, part executive, part dreamer, part good son, part Peter Pan. During the trip, each time Janet decides Josh is a flake, he does or says something that wins her total admiration, or he makes her laugh, which she's not used to. About two thirds through their journey, Josh decides that he and Janet might be meant for each other. Now all he's got to do is convince Janet of that.

2 Across is a battle-of-the-sexes throwback written by Jerry Mayer, a playwright with several decades’ worth of television comedy credits. An executive producer for “The Facts of Life,” he wrote for “Bewitched,” “The Bob Newhart Show” and “Bridget Loves Bernie” — the last of which “2 Across” echoes with an archaic Catholic-Jewish romance angle. [Laura Collins-Hughes, NY Times, Dec. 9, 2015]

Josh has been unemployed for eighteen months, having left the family button business after twenty-five years. He is on his way home from one of his temp jobs working at the Airport helping run the International Air Terminal on Christian Holidays. Josh is Jewish and it is Holy Saturday. Janet, a psychotherapist, has just dropped off her son Brian at the Airport. Despite her protestations, Brian has decided to drop out of school and enlisted in the Marines.

This starts an 80-minute ride described by critics as "Hilarious," "Witty," "Romantic," "Poignant," "Wonderfully entertaining." Two opposites in an enclosed space, attacking each other's values but also being swayed and intrigued by them. They each have serious life problems that the other helps them solve. Their trip is filled with unpredictable but believable surprises, even a kiss or two. As the train ride ends it's obvious each of them has been changed for the better.

Each of the strangers on a train is exactly the kind of person that the other has always found irritating. At first, they are worlds apart on everything, but as the trip continues, they begin to relax and enjoy each other, even as they argue about their differences.

Is it possible to believe that you could find love on an eighty minute rapid transit ride? Absolutely! The humor comes from their extreme differences, with each trying to change the other for the better, as they struggle to finish their crosswords before the end of the line – and to schedule a future “lunch date” to seal the deal on their newfound relationship!

Theatre in the Valley (April 8-May 2, 2016) 8:00 pm Friday & Saturdays; 2:00pm Matinees Sundays 10 West Pacific Avenue, Henderson, NV Phone: (702) 558-7275

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