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‘The Monogamist,’ A Comedy by Christopher Kyle, Opens Off-Broadway

November 15, 1995

NEW YORK (AP) _ ``To thine own self be true″ is the advice Polonius gives in ``Hamlet.″ Just try being faithful to somebody else _ that’s the tough one, warns playwright Christopher Kyle.

Fidelity gets quite a workout in ``The Monogamist,″ Kyle’s biting, blistering social comedy currently on view at off-Broadway’s Playwrights Horizons.

Kyle is a quirky, original writer, who, with the help of director Scott Elliott, has fashioned one of the more trenchant pieces on modern mores seen in New York in a long time. ``The Monogamist″ is both hilarious and bleak, full of humor and heartbreak as it tells the tale of two generations that cohabit but don’t comprehend each other.

The story is set very specifically in 1991. It is the George Bush administration at the time of the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings.

Late thirtysomething Dennis Jensen is a self-satisfied minor poet, who lives contentedly with his baby boomer wife, Susan. He extols the virtues of true love on a cable television show, presided over by a former student whose hairstyles change as often as her trendy opinions.

Susan teaches feminist literature at Princeton and, one day, Dennis discovers her in bed with a young male student. His world shattered, the poet finds solace with a female member of Generation X.

Eventually, Dennis and Susan try to get back together. But she wants a baby, and Dennis has never reconciled himself to fatherhood. Their relationship, like the play, is uneasy and unresolved.

The five actors could not be more perfect. Arliss Howard plays the poet with a low-key self-absorption that is scary; Lisa Emery projects amazing sympathy as his confused wife.

There are three sterling comic performances: Timothy Olyphant as the surfer dude Lothario, Chelsea Altman as his equally spaced-out female counterpart, and Caroline Seymour as the poetry priestess of cable access.

Director Elliott, with the help of a superb design team, has put together a visually stunning _ and funny _ production.

Video monitors offer comments on the play’s progress from such real-life personalities as television critic Pia Lindstrom, gossip columnist Liz Smith, millionaire developer Donald Trump and New York cable porn-star Robin Byrd. Pop music, as well as footage from current television shows, accompany much of the action.

Yet the real star of the evening remains the playwright, whose dazzling wordplay gives life to four very different people who just don’t know how to connect.

``The Monogamist″ is witty, literate fun.

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