Judging by his play "Middle Age Spread," Roger Hall may be New Zealand's John Updike. Hall's imagination is fired by middle- class suburbanites with identity crises: husbands regretting lost youth, wives regretting lost husbands.
The Source Theater's technically ambitious, mixed-media production with video tableaux between scenes completely captures Hall's conceit of mid-life malaise. The six-actor cast directed by Bart Whiteman handles matters with loving care, achieving an air at once wistful and amusing.
The two-acter focuses on a dinner party at the home of Elizabeth and Colin: she a frumpish housewife, he a mild-mannered school principal. The guests include Reg, their philandering drunk of a neighbor; Isobel, his embittered spouse; Judy, Colin's softspoken colleague and (as it happens) secret lover; and Robert, Judy's straitlaced, thick-headed accountant of a husband.
The evening goes from crackers to pudding as the mean-spirited Reg, played by Dick Harrington with what looks to be sheer delight, depletes the Scotch.
When the forced bonhomie turns sour as the guests come to terms with reviling one another, Reg perversely ends the party by exposing Colin and Judy's affair. The doings are spiced by funny, bittersweet flashbacks -- the awkward lovers in bed, or man and wife stolidly in the same position -- as well as by a videotaped leitmotif, played on a TV atop the bookshelf, of the characters intrepidly jogging.
Theatrically, it's a subtle, tricky business -- which the Source is negotiating with admirable aplomb. There's a smartly designed set by Whiteman and Steve Siegel, which makes good use of the tiny space while managing to evoke lives of bourgeois desperation.
There are also half a dozen well-aimed, artful performances -- from Harrington, Richard deLaubenfels, Joan Kelley, Beverly Brigham Bowman, Dianne Couves and Stephen Wallace Haines, who plays the Babbitt-like accountant convincingly, with eager grin and bulging bright eyes. MIDDLE AGE SPREAD -- At the Source Theater through June 18.