Love in the World of Fruit
nytheatre.com review by Melanie Lee
July 15, 2006
Love in the World of Fruit, part of the gay-themed Fresh Fruit Festival, consists of two one-act plays. Real Smiles by Jon Michael Spano, directed by Stephen Field, shows two vacationing friends coping with one's failed romance. Tales from the Big House, written and performed by Robin Cloud, and directed by Kimmy Gatewood, traces Robin's search for an identity acceptable to her many categories of associates. (Big House replaced the scheduled play Marla's Devotion, withdrawn from the festival.)
In the two-character Real Smiles, set in the living room of what I imagine to be a rented seaside cottage, the glib, urbane Matt (George Hahn), sorting out his clothing on the couch, prepares to meet someone at a local bar. Matt tries to get his friend Zed (Jeffrey T. Plunkett) to come with him, but the forlorn Zed is pining over his lost love Elliott, whom he met while casting a Radio City Music Hall show. "Goodbye, ambiance; hello, crow's feet!" Matt quips as he frets over his aging face. Zed pines, "I'm as single as a fat girl at Spring Break!" When Matt's cell phone rings, Zed picks up the phone, and recognizes the phone number: Elliott's. Jealousy rises as Zed confronts Matt, leading to secrets revealed, and to unexpected feelings expressed.
This well-written play is full of sharp-witted dialogue—"I surrender...to a world of artifice!" Zed yells—as it deftly explores issues of playing versus relating, loyalty versus searching, friendship versus sex, and jealousy versus trust, as well as the fear of aging. The two actors are superb in conveying the pain and the bitchiness of trying to be cool, or of trying to be real. Pouring over his copy of The Catcher in the Rye—another work dealing with accusations of phoniness—Zed observes, "This book will last for centuries, and the moon and the waves will last forever, but I'm timed." With its revelations, Real Smiles could almost be an argument for gay marriage.
In the companion piece, the one-woman show Tales from the Big House (which was also part of the Fresh Fruit show Bottom Line: Sex, Politics, Masturbation and More), Robin Cloud takes the audience on a journey through her life as a black lesbian. She jokes about seeing a T-shirt which said "Bisexual: twice as many dates." Changing her costumes onstage, Robin morphs from her 16-year-old self, attending the prom with her blond Scandinavian male best friend, to her "super duper black" undergrad days at Howard University, to her grad school life at Columbia University among less radical friends, to her Girl Scout camp counselor days with her affair with a stunning British blonde woman, to Berkeley in California, to England to retrieve her lost love. Juggling all her categories, Robin seeks a persona that will please her parents ("A young black lesbian doctor is out there waiting for you!" she quotes them as saying), as well as her gay friends, her Rastafarian friends, and her "black power" friends.
Cloud is cute and funny, if not quite polished, and I believe she has a future as a comedian. Although the show is worthwhile, I found it somewhat unsatisfying. Her story feels incomplete, not totally understood; she hasn't made sense of her journey yet. She provides insights into the struggle, but not insight behind the struggle. She artfully shows what it means to try to fit into many different worlds. However, I suspect that she hasn't figured out yet what it all means at the core, and therefore neither can we. Perhaps in a future show, Cloud will have discovered more of her silver lining.