"Tokens of Affection" by Topher Payne at Out of Box Theatre March 15-30, 2019
Since the site is not allowing the posting of reviews in its normal place, the backlog of my reviews will be going to the forum
Title: Tokens of Love
Topher Payne’s "Tokens of Affection" has made the rounds in Atlanta from GET to CenterStage North and now to Out of Box. In its previous two iterations, the set encompassed two separate locations -- the New York City apartment of Charlie (Matthew Busch) and the kitchen of the Connecticut home occupied by Charlie’s sister Claire (Emily Sams Brown) and her husband Bruce Burnham (Daniel Carter Brown). At Out of Box, set designer Carolyn Choe has wisely chosen to omit the kitchen set, allowing the kitchen telephone conversations to occur next to the side exit door, with furtive glances out the door to suggest the presence of others. That allows the small stage to represent Charlie’s apartment, with front door up right and hallway to bedroom and bathroom up left. There’s a sofa down right, an efficiency kitchen and window centerstage, and a computer workstation down left. Open shelving scattered about gives the place a truly lived-in look. It’s a good-looking set and beautifully workable.
Bradley Rudy’s lighting design and Zip Rampy’s sound design don’t get much of a workout, but they still manage to impress -- the lighting with a TV effect at the end of the show and the sound design with "You Don’t Bring Me Flowers" on a scene transition. Costumes add to the visual appeal of the play.
Zip Rampy has directed the action to occur at a giddy pace, with tiny touches here and there that reverberate to increase the entertainment potential of the piece. He has coaxed delightful performances out of all six actors in the cast. Bob Smith and Mary Claire Klooster, as the parents of Charlie and Claire, show all the cluelessness a long-married couple can have to the dynamics of their relationship. The Browns (a real-life married couple) play oversized characters that would be caricatures in less skilled hands. Mr. Busch is unsurpassed in his slow burns as interruptions clutter his day as a work deadline looms. Emily Kalat is wondrous as neighbor Rita, a breezily friendly helpmeet to Charlie. They are nicely matched, with just enough of an age difference to be believable, without straining credulity in the last moments of the show.
When an entertaining comedy is performed in such an extraordinarily entertaining manner, ripples of laughter fill the audience from start to finish. Out of Box may be presenting what is the definitive version of "Tokens of Affection." It certainly is a joy to behold. Kudos to all!