nytheatre.com review by Loren Noveck
August 15, 2004
Anyone who’s ever browsed the Salon.com personals, become someone’s Friendster buddy, or become somewhat obsessed with the author of a favorite blog will recognize—perhaps a little uncomfortably—the world of stirring, which takes its inspiration and most of its text from a broad variety of Internet dating sites, blogs, and urban online communities. Director/creator Shoshona Currier and dramaturg Charles Forbes have mined this almost limitless resource incisively, if perhaps a bit cynically, creating an array of interconnected characters who are all too often lying while claiming to be more truthful than they’ve ever been in relationships before. They use the found language elegantly and cleverly, building believable dialogue from and around the adapted text.
Despite their origins in cyber-profiles, the characters are fleshed out and their relationships are engaging, the gay characters perhaps a little less so than the straight (which is no doubt partly due to the fact that there are fewer of them and therefore fewer relationship permutations possible for them). I was especially moved by Joy (Jen Taher), author of a hard-hitting blog whose off-line personality slowly emerges over the course of the piece; Laura (Sarah Elliott), who’s trying through this process to come to terms with her own needs and internal contradictions; and Trip (Chime Day Serra), the honey-tongued playboy who may or may not actually have his ego and his heart invested. The clever costumes (styled by Karl Ruckdeschel) walk the fine line between character and caricature, and instantly signal the Williamsburg-hipster setting of the piece.
Currier and Forbes also attempt to intertwine this modern-day narrative with the story of Pygmalion, adding recitations from the Roman myth in between scenes. I completely understand intellectually the connections they’re drawing between the sculptor who created his own perfect woman, and the solitary typist who conjures up the ideal lover on the other end of the keyboard. In performance, though, the segments of formal, classical prose were hard to follow, and tended to pull me emotionally out of the piece. There were moments when the highly patterned blocking also made the piece feel a little too abstract.
I find myself wishing a bit forlornly that stirring would have infused a little more sincerity and a little less duplicity into its depiction of the world of online interactions—which may just mean that I felt for these characters, and I wanted them to find what they were looking for.