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The Playgoer

Laura Gayvert and Ben Carr star in Colonial Players’ Maytag Virgin. Photo: Brandon Bentley.

Maytag Virgin at Colonial Players 

By Jim Reiter 

Maytag Virgin is a delightful yet profound work by local playwright Audrey Cefaly that has received glowing reviews at professional theaters across the country. It is now on stage at Colonial Players, the amateur company in downtown Annapolis that reopened last weekend via streaming and, with restrictions, to audiences for its 72nd season. 

The two-person play is about what its author describes as “the great paradox. When we love fully, we lose a part of ourselves.” Both characters have felt loss, but had they loved fully? Can they give themselves permission to love again? 

Laura Gayvert plays Lizzy Nash, a brash and slightly neurotic teacher recently widowed in a small Alabama town. Ben Carr plays Jack Key, an even-keeled widower who moves into the house next door after accepting a job teaching at the same high school from which Lizzy is on leave.  

From the beginning it seems clear that these two are on a path toward each other, but they are their own worst roadblocks. Lizzy and Jack evolve from argument to flirtation to banter—she hates that his Maytag dryer is on his porch, he urges her to loosen up—to deep discussions sparked by their reading of love letters left behind by the deceased previous owners of Jack’s house.  

Carr gives Jack a bemused stability that nicely counters Gayvert’s reading of Lizzy as sarcastic yet insecure, and director Edd Miller ensures that the humor and tenderness of Cefaly’s script walk hand-in-hand.  

To achieve safe distancing between the unmasked cast and the masked audience, Director Edd Miller’s set portraying the characters’ two rear porches is placed at one end of the theater rather than Colonial’s usual in-the-round configuration. Lizzy’s porch is full of wind chimes and folk art and an often-occupied clothesline; Jack’s has the Maytag dryer and a hammock, on which he sleeps because he thinks the previous owner’s ghost is in the bedroom. Occasionally Miller’s placement of the actors allows small parts of the set to come between them and the audience, and there are times when we must strive to hear Gayvert either because her back is to us or she is so far upstage and away from the audience that her voice gets lost. But that doesn’t sap the strength of this production, which is the chemistry Gayvert and Carr share as actors. They have worked together before and it shows.  

Lighting by John Purnell and sound by Kaelynn Bedsworth are especially effective at the end of Act 1. After a beautifully delivered monologue by Gayvert, Lizzy steps out into a nighttime storm and lifts her face, sacrificing herself to the driving rain. The effect is so real that the audience feels the chill.  

Maytag Virgin runs through April 25; tickets are $20.21. Run time is 2 hours 15 minutes include on intermission. Call 410-268-7373 or visit www.thecolonialplayers.org for information on tickets and COVID-related restrictions.