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'Marriage Hearse' travels bumpy road to altar

Steve Godzdiewski and Michelle Torres in Arena Players

Steve Godzdiewski and Michelle Torres in Arena Players Repertory Theater Company 's production of "All Aboard the Marriage Hearse," by Matt Morillo. Credit: Fred De Feis Photo

It's not a post-feminist world, or even a feminist one, in Matt Morillo's "All Aboard the Marriage Hearse."

The relationship comedy by the Hicksville native best known for his Off-Broadway hit, "Angry Young Women in Low-Rise Jeans With High-Class Issues," makes its Long Island premiere at Arena Players. It's also Morillo's debut on his home turf.

Directed by Evan Donnellan, "Marriage Hearse" borrows that part of its title from a William Blake poem.

But most thro' midnight streets I hear

How the youthful Harlot's curse

Blasts the new born Infant's tear,

And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.

"I looked it up," says Amy, who's been living with boyfriend Sean for three years. "It's about hookers and venereal disease."

Over the course of an argumentative first act, she and Sean renew a debate they've been having for some time. They've just returned from a wedding. Amy caught the bouquet and Sean got the garter.

They've also had plenty to drink and keep hitting the bottles, displayed center stage on Fred Sprauer's minimalist impression of an Upper East Side apartment. Sean, played by Steve Gozdziewski with an off-putting smugness, is a GQ magazine humorist protective of his reputation as a marriage cynic. Amy, oddly ambivalent about her own position - girls just wanna get married - as played by Michelle Torres, says of the journey from cohabitation to matrimony: "It's like starting a company and then you incorporate." Maybe the director intended that neither of them should be sympathetic. They aren't.

We start to weary of their back-and-forth when Sean - his judgment impaired by booze - proposes a Vegas wedding, never imagining she'd call his bluff to drive cross-country tanked up as they both are.

In Act II, Amy turns the tables. "You're right," she keeps saying as she packs to leave him. And now it's a matter of will she or won't she?

It's all been said before, for better and worse, in countless romantic comedies. Have we learned anything from one more? Probably just that writers will keep writing them.

WHAT: Long Island premiere of "All Aboard the Marriage Hearse," a play by Matt Morillo

WHEN | WHERE: Friday and Saturday nights at 8:30, Sundays at 3 p.m. through Jan. 16 at Arena Players Second Stage, 296 Rte. 109, East Farmingdale

INFO: $20-$25, $2 discount for seniors and students on Fridays and Sundays;, 516-293-0674

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