Like the melba round under a canapé, secret adultery provides the sound foundation for dazzling verbal acrobatics and well-observed social insights in Melissa James Gibson’s 2009 dramedy about 40-year-olds settling for the lives they’re now stuck with. The five characters in her erudite brat pack hyper-analyze in lit-crit fashion every thought that crosses their minds. All these characters obsess over language and cultural assumptions, as though clear articulation could save them from the nameless death that claimed the husband of poet Jane (chisel-cheeked Cheyenne Casebier), who's stumbled into adultery (the "this" in This) with her best friend's husband. Character nuance and group dynamics are more compelling than the affair, whose perfunctory revelation feels anticlimactic—a device forcing Jane to confront her grief. “This,” says one character of the affair, “is dinky.” But the play overall is great fun. MARGARET FRIEDMAN

Wednesdays-Sundays. Starts: April 8. Continues through May 15, 2011

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