If one wanted to say something, I don’t know, let’s say universal, about relationships, why resort to the improbable implausibility of entanglement and coincidence that only ever seems to occur in the movies and, lately, on the stage.
Maybe I’m living a rather sheltered life, but I’ve never heard of anyone who cheated on their partner only to have said partner get a bit of revenge sex with a prostitute, only to find out that the girlfriend of the prostitute was the woman the original cheater may or may not have had sex with, kicking off the whole rather far-fetched circle in the first place. I suppose I find it hard to suspend my disbelief.
Tom and Joan have been married for 30 years and, needless to say, the spark is going, going, gone. When Tom meets Tara (a tigerish twenty-something) in a hotel bar after work, he has sex with her in a nearby alley after she practically begs him to across the table.
The rest of the play deals with the fall out. Tom reveals the dirty deed that same night (how oddly forthcoming!) to Joan, and it transpires that, not only is the dissatisfaction mutual, but that, for Tom anyway, it extends to his whole existence, not merely his sex life.
The other couple – Tara and her escort-boyfriend Peter – have their own problems, of course, but then one would imagine that comes with the territory when one of you is a prostitute. Like Tom, Tara also finds herself unsatisfied with life, not just the fact that she shares her man with a lot of other people in town.
For the most part, McCafferty’s writing is fast, funny and sharp, but come curtain call, I’m left feeling unsatisfied. There are some interesting questions at play – what happens when we’re confronted with the reality of our fantasies, and how do we face up to life’s dis-satisfactions when we’re trying to live that life with another person in tow – but the over-arching concern seems to have been about linking up the clever-clever pieces of the relationships between the four. Once the acrobatics of inter-twining the two couples have been dealt with, there’s not much more room for anything else. Fringe plays only get an hour, after all.
The staging is excellent, though, with two-half sets on a rotating circle, turning around for Tom and Joan’s living room, then again for the hotel bedroom, and again for Tara and Peter’s kitchen. It’s nicely thought through and adds both to the feeling of slight chaos coupled with one of standoffish domesticity.
I’m not normally one to advocate for lengthening plays, but Unfaithful would most-likely benefit from being a bit longer. Given a little more room to develop the characters, rather than fixating on the distractions of implausible coincidence, we might start to care what happens to these strained relationships and, indeed, find something to which to relate.