Immediate Theatre Company

ABC’s Thirtysomething gets a lot of flak for showing only one side of a multifaceted story. The show’s physically attractive yuppie characters are economically secure and morally sound. The Immediate Theatre Company’s production of Wendy MacLeod’s Apocalyptic Butterflies relies on the flip side of life: the petty arguments and day-to-day problems that fill most people’s lives. MacLeod’s characters work in dull jobs (or have none) and fight over who cleans the house.

Hank and Muriel are the perfect mismatched, true-to-life couple; she’s too smart for him, he’s too immature for her. He can’t deal with the responsibilities of fatherhood, she can’t stand his coffee grounds in the sink. Forget that they can’t decide on a name for their seven-week-old daughter, these two can’t even agree on the sex of the Road Runner! Faced with Christmas anxieties and pushed over the edge by Hank’s birthday present from his father, four thousand dollars’ worth of lawn totem poles, they respond as any couple would; he has an affair and she goes off to Howard Johnson’s to sample every flavor of ice cream.

While we don’t see Muriel’s ice cream binge, we do get a glimpse of Hank’s affair with Trudi, a busty, sweet, but not so bright beauty given to philosophical leanings and “reality attacks.” They spend most of their time in bed talking about Muriel, which should tell Hank something but doesn’t. It takes his mother, Francine, to put a stop to his wandering.

We meet Hank’s parents and suddenly his eccentricities come into focus. Francine is surprisingly similar to Trudi in intellect and outlook while Hank’s father, Dick, collects lawn ornaments and sports an overdone New England accent and a yellow rain slicker (so as not to disappoint the tourists who expect such things).

MacLeod’s characters are true-to-life, only more so. They are deft caricatures who are somehow believable, and they’re well suited to spout MacLeod’s comic, offbeat one-liners and slightly warped philosophies. Who doesn’t understand Hank when he justifies his need for an affair: “A new person sees you different so each new person is a chance to be a new person.” To Trudi, Hank is simply “a dot on my time line.”

Peggy Goss is particularly convincing as Muriel, the intelligent but directionless new mother. When Hank dumps coffee grounds in the sink, she gives a lecture on the uses of Comet that few present will ever forget. While Paul Raci’s Hank is much too angry for his situation, he is also endearingly pathetic and comic.

Maggie Bodwell’s wonderfully cramped set lends a productive air of claustrophobia to Jeff Ginsberg’s direction. It’s the quintessential first apartment and it captures MacLeod’s style well.