“Living Arrangements,” her hilarious new one-act comedy, playing at the Midwinter Madness Festival, follows Charlie and Lois, a couple who have just celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary, and have decided to divorce. Now, that may not sound funny, but the play takes an unusual twist in that Charlie and Lois have also decided to remain living in the same apartment together. After all, with real estate being so high, nobody leaves a rent controlled apartment, not even for divorce.
Reminiscent of a Neil Simon play, with her zingy one liners scattered throughout, Pederson gives the audience plenty to laugh about in this 30 minute comedy about the trials and tribulations of marriage. When we first meet Charlie and Lois, they are at the dinner table, talking to their children, Carla and Blaine, while bickering with each other. As they announce their decision to divorce, their children seem shocked. “People say the first year of marriage is the hardest, but it’s really the last,” quips Lois to the kids. Carla and Blaine are completely baffled when they find out that their parents plan to remain living together, while maintaining separate lives. How exactly does that work? Well, we soon find out.
Another evening begins- Lois is seated with Nancy and Doug, a couple whom her and Charlie have known for years. Lois has invited them over for cards, but doesn’t invite Charlie to take part, even though he is in the next room, and clearly hears everything being said. It is an interesting evening of playing hearts, interrupting conversations through the wall, and sneaking sandwiches. Some time later, Charlie decides to reciprocate by inviting Carla and Blaine over the apartment for lunch, minus Lois, who is present.
In an uncomfortable atmosphere, Carla and Blaine start to bicker, prompting Charlie to ask, “I don’t know where you two get it from?” This separation seems harder than one would have imagined.
The complaints keep coming, and so do the laughs. “It feels like I’m sleeping with a monster,” Lois says to Charlie, referring to his sleep apnea machine. Apparently, he’s not the only person who looks like one, as he fires back about how she looks with her blue face mask on.
In a particularly funny scene, we see Blaine, on his iPad, setting up an online dating account for his dad. “What kind of woman are you looking for?” he asks. “Young,” Charlie responds. “What are your hobbies?” asks Blaine. With Charlie unsure, Carla responds for him. “He is good at fixing things. Wait, don’t say that. If you say that he is handy, every woman will want him to fix things.”
Charlie soon discovers that the single life is overrated, as his date will not go out with him again because she finds his living situation disturbing. He may not have found what he was looking for on his date, but when he got home, he found something else; his wife, sitting up waiting for him.
Enjoyable and relatable to watch, Charlie and Lois join the ranks of other popular bickering couples. They may remind you of a slightly gentler version of Marie and Frank Barone from the television series, “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
Perhaps a fable for today’s modern world, what we do learn, is that in marriage, we have to accept each other, warts and all. And the bickering, maybe isn’t such a bad thing after all. If you have been married for thirty years, quarreling becomes more like a hobby that you share, or part of your everyday routine. After all, there is a very fine line between love and hate.
Pedersen has written another hit that resonates with audiences. Her characters are relatable, allowing us a glimpse into their lives while maybe gaining a little perspective into our own.