"An Infinite Ache"
Stamford Theatre Works, Stamford
David Schulner has a cleverly-written piece, now on stage at Stamford Theatre Works. While modern playwrights frequently manipulate time, and in fact are obsessed with it, Schulner offers a different twist. He, too, uses flashbacks, but he also telescopes time. Years of marriage pass in a flash, neatly moving on to segue into the next time period. For example, at one point, the wife wants a dog, the husband objects, the dog arrives…and departs. A period of months—or years—is covered in four lines and a woof, woof.
It is the story of a marriage--from one couple’s initial, nervous date to the infirmities of old age and, ultimately, death. In between, life happens—with money struggles, childbirth, a child’s death, separations, reconciliations, extra-marital affairs, new careers, old grievances. There is wit and poignancy in the exchange, as their lives play out.
They are not a couple of like background, but, in keeping with our times, an inter-racial pair. Charles is Jewish-American, Hope Asian-American. But Schulner, unfortunately, does not explore the ramifications of such differences, which could have made for a piece in greater depth. Surprisingly, this union causes hardly a ripple in either family. Their own battles come from the ordinary wear and tear of marriage and their own personality quirks.
Director Steve Karp puts his actors through their paces with brilliant precision, as they dress, undress, have sex, don’t have sex, grow up, grow old. Tristan Colton (Charles) and Vanessa Kai (Hope) rise to the challenge with considerable skill (though Colton tends to be too jumpy in the opening scene and Kai tends to mumble her lines). But it is not easy to change costumes on stage, while speaking one’s lines and staying in character.
Unfortunately, though, despite their quick-change artistry, neither player is particularly appealing. If indeed Colton and Kai had had more personal charm, one could have more easily accepted that first-date connection. And the story would have gone on to be more believable. It is not the play, nor the direction, but the performers themselves who fall short of goals. One imagines how “An Infinite Ache” would play out with a different twosome.
Meanwhile, there is the Stamford Theatre Works production, which, despite its drawbacks, provides the sampling of an ingenious, imaginative playwright.
-- -Irene Backalenick
Apr. 25, 2008