Saturday, November 19, 2016

Sparkling Desires

Single Carrot Theatre is in fine form with its opening production of the season: Savage/Love by Sam Shepard and Joseph Chaikin.  The play is a loose mosaic of monologues and sketches dealing with the irrational impulses propelling human passion.  Ascetically dressed in white, the cast begins by making short speeches incorporating many of the cliches concerning love which pepper our everyday speech and the bits and pieces of unrequited love affairs.  The play then moves into a series of two-person dialogues, athletically performed, fleshing out the various opening maxims.  At the conclusion the cast becomes a chorus line reminding the audience that they are part and parcel of the lunacies just enacted on the stage.  The play itself has the feel of a plate of tantalizing hors d'oeuvres but the main course seems to be missing.  The barbed sharpness of the writing partially compensates for the thin structure.

The direction by Jen Spieler is brilliance incarnate.  The quick changes in location, posture, mood, and even props prevent this simply structured and mono-themed piece from receding into predictability. The production suddenly turns musical (with banjo) and then athletic (with energetic leaps over platforms) and then wistful (with exhausted lovers under the covers) and then farcical (as we suddenly do the laundry).  The scenic design (Edward Victor), lighting design (Ryan Johnson), and sound design (Meghan Stanton) keep the cascade of visual and audial images flowing without overwhelming the straightforward poetry and humor of the script.

The cast demonstrates the ensemble cohesion and energy which is Single Carrot's forte.  All six actors are supple and convincing as they quickly change genres, characters, and situations.  One standout moment involves Paul Diem and Genevieve de Mahy in an offbeat musical interlude.

Savage/Love has the typical Shepard note of danger and menace.  But the tone here, especially at the conclusion, is more mellow.  The lunacy, fear, and desire are part of the simple, awkward human desire to love and be loved.


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