Chronicle Review: ‘Rocket to the Moon’ portrays harsh reality of love

Michelle Collins

The definition of love today is not what it was five or 10 years ago. These days, it is rare for a couple to get and stay married before the age of 30, and many people aren’t “settling down” as often as they did before. Why settle with one person for your entire life when you can live life on your own schedule, travel the world or take a “Rocket to the Moon?”

In Clifford Odets’ play “Rocket to the Moon,” character Ben Stark struggled with this exact issue. The play was performed on the night of Nov. 1 to a swanky, older audience (including President John Lahey) at the Long Wharf Theatre on a revolving stage. The play is set in an extremely hot summer in New York in the waiting room of Stark’s struggling dental practice.

Stark, played by David Chandler, is married to a woman named Belle, played by Christina Kirk. Belle is a very demanding, nagging woman, who complains that her husband lets people take advantage of him. Cleo Singer, played by Louisa Krause, is Stark’s young, attractive secretary, and his father-in-law, Mr. Prince (David Margulies), constantly tells Stark he needs to start living his life.

Torn between passion and responsibility, Stark begins to realize that his marriage and practice have both ended up unsuccessful, and strives to live outside the lines of his boxed-in life. He ends up falling for Singer, and the two develop a short-lived, yet passionate, love affair. Mr. Prince, who’s character is like that of crazy father Arthur on CBS’ hit show “King of Queens,” also takes a liking to Singer. In the end, Singer has to choose between the two men. Stark realizes he can only offer her a “second-hand life,” and decides he needs to face reality and take on the responsibility of the decision he made to get married.

The acting is phenomenal. The other doctors in Stark’s “building” perfectly portray unsuccessful, unconfident businessmen, and Singer is a prime representation of a flighty, manipulative young woman. Belle’s controlling behavior is the best example of a woman who knows her marriage is failing, yet can’t do anything about it but yell at her husband. Everything from Stark’s dramatic outbursts to his facial expressions showed the confusion and guilt he feels from not loving his wife. Finally, Mr. Prince provides most of the comic relief in the performance, as well as some unsuspecting wise advice for Stark.

In a world where love is rarely for a lifetime, “Rocket to the Moon” tells a story about the confusion, jealousy and responsibility that accompany a marriage.