nytheatre.com review by Lucile Scott
August 15, 2009
Andrea Kuchlewska's Complete explores language and how we use it and how it uses us by focusing on the rather complicated relationship that Eve, a quirky young linguist, has with words. The play unfolds in loops and flashbacks, between the present day where Eve and her academic partner Micah are about to present an important paper at a large linguistics conference, their recent past, and Eve's youth, when she attended a self-help seminar called The Training, beginning at age nine.
At The Training, the seminar leader and attendees attempt to manipulate language in ways linguist Eve finds grammatically grating. But we soon discover that Eve hides her emotions in witty torrents and discussions of words and that her disdain of The Training's use of grammar, in particular the phrase "create myself being," is in fact about her disdain of the role it played in her youth as she tried to recover from life with her violent father after he left and the damage she feels it continues to do to other fragile and needy souls looking for some kind of empowerment and spiritual fulfillment. When she discovers that Micah has attended The Training, she becomes slightly unhinged, and their academic careers soon hang in the balance, as well as perhaps their personal happiness, since it turns out that Micah went to The Training to get the courage to tell Eve he loves her.
Lucy Owen is excellent as Eve, allowing us to glimpse snippets of the fear and vulnerability she is hiding amidst her charmingly sharp-tongued and neurotic banter. Sophia Nicole Rodyakin plays the nine-year-old Eve, Evie, with a similar humor and charm. Under Birgitta Victorson's direction, the cast plows through the dense, rich, and funny dialogue with engaging energy. However, the actors repeatedly called for lines, which was distracting and odd. Also, the play loops and repeats the same events from different perspectives a few too many times, reducing its ability to fully develop the various relationships and stakes and the resolution.
Eve grows up hiding her emotions behind the manipulation of language and then behind an obsessive dedication to linguistics, the one field in which language is not used to express oneself, but is studied and diagramed, making it perhaps the one place where language is robbed of its ability to manipulate. This is a smart premise for a smart play that takes on emotionally heavy issues like a fear of intimacy and abusive parents with a humorous grace that is touching and true to life.