Americans have often turned to live theater as an escape during troubling times—and in the last few years, we’ve needed it more than ever. Political unrest, economic stress and an ongoing pandemic have pushed us all to the limit.
Luckily, Coachella Valley residents have productions like CVRep’s Life x 3 to take us on a brief imaginary journey, offering us a look inside the lives of characters who may not always be joyful. However, they all make us feel that somehow, we’re not alone.
Life x 3 (originally titled Trois versions de la vie) is French writer Yasmina Reza’s fifth play. First produced in Paris in 2001, the show was translated into English and later performed in England and New York.
We see three different versions of a dinner party gone wrong. Research astrophysicist Hubert (Scott Golden) and his stay-at-home wife, Inez (Betsy Moore), show up for dinner at the Parisian home of Henry (Charles Pasternak) and his wife, Sonia (Lynn Favin)—on the wrong night. Henry is a less-successful astrophysicist who is desperately trying to get his latest paper published, while Sonia is a spitfire attorney now working in the financial field.
Throughout the evening, Henry and Sonia try in vain to get their 6-year-old son, Arnaud, to quiet down and go to sleep. Their offerings of cookies, an apple, hugs and a tape of The Fox and the Hound never quite do the trick. The boy is never actually seen, but the offstage whining of CJ Wealand is quite effective.
The wine is plentiful, but there’s nothing to eat in the house other than Cheez-its and a few cookies, so it is no surprise that the adults soon become inebriated. Tongues loosen, and insults begin to fly.
There is no weak link in this ensemble cast. Charles Pasternak is no stranger to CVRep audiences, and he is always delightful to watch. His Henry tugs at our heartstrings, as he seems to lose control of the evening from the get-go—whether it’s a debate over whether his son gets a cookie in bed, a discussion of who’s the more successful astrophysicist, or the matter of who wins his wife’s affections. Lynn Favin’s Sonia is a tigress—a no-nonsense mother, polished professional and a flirt, she is no one to mess with.
Scott Golden’s Hubert is perfectly snooty, arrogant and judgmental; at one point, he remarks: “There are people who are doomed. It’s sad, but there’s nothing you can do about it.” As his long-suffering wife, Inez, Betsy Moore is fabulous. We’ve all known someone like her—a woman who’s given up her career for motherhood and is trapped in a marriage to a domineering, nonsupportive man. Moore adeptly conveys Inez’s pain and frustration over being viewed as someone with nothing important to say.
The dialogue is snappy, and the onstage chemistry between the four actors is palpable. Artistic director Ron Celona once again proves his knack for casting. Director Joanne Gordon does a fabulous job of guiding these veteran thespians. It’s clear she had a strong vision for this production, and each character comes across as fully fleshed out and genuine.
CVRep is known for its terrific sets, but this one deserves special mention: It is stunning. The slight changes in lighting, music and backdrops, not to mention the rotation of the revolving stage for each of the versions of the evening, are all perfect. Kudos to Jimmy Cuomo, Nick Wass, Moira Wilkie Whitaker and Cricket Myers for the set design, video design, lighting and sound, respectively. Costumes (Frank Cazares), hair and makeup (Lynda Shaeps) are all flawless.
We are still in the midst of a pandemic, so it’s important to mention that CVRep strictly follows all safety protocols. Vaccination cards are required to enter the theater; masks must be worn at all times; and audience seating is spaced out.
Life x 3 takes a look at marriage, parenting, professional competition, friendship and the lies we tell ourselves and each other. It makes us think—and ultimately, that’s what good theater is all about.
Life x 3 will be performed at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, through Sunday, Feb. 6, at the CVRep Playhouse, 68510 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Cathedral City. Tickets are $53-$63, and the running time is 90 minutes, with no intermission. For tickets or more information, call 760-296-2966, or visit www.cvrep.org.