Jen And Liz In Love
nytheatre.com review by Montserrat Mendez
August 19, 2010
Sometimes you have to listen to what the universe tries to tell you. Just a day after watching the wonderful Miss Magnolia Beaumont Goes to Provincetown, a show about one man who is sharing his body with a Southern belle, I got to see its complete opposite, a sweet morsel of a play about two women being kept apart by a box.
You see, in Jen and Liz in Love, two women in Massachusetts cannot physically come together because they are being kept apart by their own insecurities and the fact that one of them is stuck inside a kissing booth in a festival.
As the crowd leaves the festival, and Liz's husband goes to put the money they've made in the bank, leaving Liz in said box, her old friend Jen stops by, and what comes out of both is a lifetime of suppression, love and regret.
It is a sweet play, simple, and effective; it actually, at 45 minutes, is just too short, and just long enough. What I mean by that is that the play feels like a set-up for something bigger—for bigger discoveries, a life-changing event—that we will never see. But it's also the perfect length, because playwright Jesse Weaver knows that the gimmick of keeping one of the characters inside a box can only last so long. So, in a sense, I liked it, wished there was more, but feel torn because by asking for more I would have asked for the play to be ruined. Does that make sense? It does to me. I left the theatre touched, and yet, strangely feeling empty. In a sense, the message is the opposite of Miss Magnolia Beaumont's: Sometimes, we cannot let go, we hold on to what we have so tightly, we suffer for fear of losing it or letting it go. It's a heart breaking coda. And perhaps the two pieces should be seen side to side.
The two performances are very sweet and authentic. Their Boston accents are top-notch, and their performances are incredibly deep and full of a melancholy sweetness. Cindy Keiter, as Jen, gives a wound-up-tight, nervous, melancholy performance. But, the tougher job falls to Helene Galek, as her friend in a box, Liz. It's an all vocal performance, the only part of her visible throughout the piece is her lips. With her scratchy voice, the cracks in her pitch, and gravelly notes, she manages to show us her entire range of emotions. It's a tough thing to do, but she does it quite winningly.
Both the writing and direction are simple. Director Lory Henning has really worked on the moment to moment beats of the characters' journey, so that while the play is short, it does not feel rushed or slowed, but modulated to create mood. Weaver has an authentic voice, and a real handle on the regional language as well as the ability to let his characters take a full journey in a short amount of time.