Can people change? Of course, they can, but not without difficulty.
In Mark St. Germain’s funny and tender “Dancing Lessons,” Broadway dancer Senga (Michelle Marie Trester) sits moping on the couch of her Manhattan apartment. She is recovering from a knee injury that may be career-ending and is afraid that if she is seen in a knee brace by anyone in the dance community, she will never dance again. She is unable to admit to herself that she may be sidelined forever.
She is surprised – not to mention annoyed – by a knock on the door from that weird guy who lives in her building. She yells at him to go away, but he is persistent. Finally, he shouts through the door that all he wants is a single dance lesson, for which he offers a preposterous amount of money.
Senga finally does open the door to a jittery, frightened buttoned-down man named Ever Montgomery (Andrew Gumm). He is a climate scientist who has just won an award. He needs to make a speech and be able to make it through one dance at the awards ceremony.
His problem is more than not knowing the steps: he has Asperger’s and is touch-phobic. This will make dancing a challenge.
It’s a match made in – well, in St. Germain’s clever mind, and it’s fascinating to watch. Dance is pure self-expression. Science is about experiments, facts and numbers, a world in which feelings don’t count. Can these two somehow learn to communicate?
Meg DeBoard directs this lovely piece with a sure hand and an eye for comedy and pathos, both of which exist in abundance. The show is a co-production with Oceanside Theatre Company. After its Scripps Ranch run, “Dancing Lessons” will move to Oceanside for a March 1-17 run.
These are two damaged people who have something to offer each other. Trester’s Senga (she was named Agnes, but her aunt spelled it backward on the birth certificate) offers him imagination and a certain freedom he has never known. He can teach her how to accept reality.
Trester is terrific as the dancer fearful of losing her identity. You can feel her wish to let go again ... and her fear that she may never be able to do it again.
Gumm is astonishing in the difficult role of Ever, a man with verbal diarrhea but a phobia about any connection closer than talking distance. Thanks to costume designer Danita Lee, he looks as uncomfortable as he lets us know he feels.
Scripps Ranch Theatre has done it again. Bravo!
“Dancing Lessons” runs through February 24, 2019, at Scripps Ranch Theatre,
9783 Avenue of Nations, off Pomerado Road in Scripps Ranch (on the campus of Alliant International University).
Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm
Tickets: (858) 578-7728 or www.scrippsranchtheatre.org