Love/Stories (or But You Will Get Used To It)
nytheatre.com review by David Gordon
February 15, 2009
You know from the cell phone announcement that you're in for something different. Playwright Itamar Moses welcomes us to the Flea, thanks us for helping prolong the death of the American theater, encourages us to answer our ringing cell phones, encourages us to unwrap hard candies as noisily as possible, and then criticizes [Flea artistic director and producing director] Jim Simpson and Carol Ostrow for yelling at him that his pre-show announcement was going on too long and that audiences would be immediately turned off.
Luckily, this dialogue doesn't outshine Love/Stories (or, But You Will Get Used to It), a collection of five of Moses's one-acts, skillfully and creatively directed by Michelle Tattenbaum Downstairs @ the Flea. The plays are just as funny, if not funnier, than the inspired pre-show announcement. They're also thought-provoking, with a strong subtextual sadness.
There are three themes that alternate among the five plays: love, lost love, and how authors create and manipulate. The strongest by far of the plays, Authorial Intent, is an example of all three. A couple has moved in together, only to find out that she has fallen out of love. The next scene finds them playing the scene over, describing the author's intent for every line and action. A coda finds the two actors who play the couple discussing what went on and trying to make a connection.
Chemistry Read takes place at an audition, where a playwright comes across an actor who has too large a connection to the material he's given. The hilarious Temp offers two temp agents who find and lose love in a ten-minute span at the office. Szinhaz, also incredibly hilarious at first, showcases the deterioration of a relationship between a pretty translator and her tortured artist lover. This one contains probably the funniest theatrical running gag I've ever heard—translating Chekhov titles into English from the tortured artist's language, among them, "The Animal Which is Flying in Circles Over the Ocean but Near to the Beach...and Enjoys Garbage and is a Kind of a Bird..."
The final play, Untitled Short Play, during which the narrator describes what's going on in the heads of two characters staring at the audience, would fare better earlier. It's a lengthy monologue during which our interest goes in and out.
Moses has a keen eye for human feelings. There's something innately relatable within these plays—starring the Flea's resident company, the Bats (Felipe Bonilla, Laurel Holland, Maren Langdon, Michael Micalizzi, and John Russo in this production, all doing bang-up work)—and there's one line in Authorial Intent that really got to me. "In order to get what I wanted," one character begins, "I had to learn so much about it that I ruined forever my ability to enjoy it..."
Who hasn't felt that once or twice?