Volume 78 / Number 5 - July 2 - July 8, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
To “I do” or not to “I do?”— that is but one of the questions
A PERFECT COUPLE
103 E. 15th St.
Through Jul. 12
Mon.-Sat. at 8 p.m.
Through Jul. 12
BY DAVID KENNERLEY
Those freshly hitched same-sex couples in California sure seem like a blissful bunch. Many had dreamed of this moment for years, while others, caught up in the euphoria of making history, made a mad dash to the altar. But recent data tracking Massachusetts same-sex unions show that many marriages have shattered, just like their hetero counterparts.
The November ballot initiative to nullify the whole shebang notwithstanding, what are the chances these couples will stay united ’til death?
Perhaps they should have seen “A Perfect Couple,” a lean, provocative look at finding and keeping love by Brooke Berman, who wrote last season’s acclaimed “Hunting and Gathering.” While the decidedly imperfect couple at the core of the marriage quandary is heterosexual, the questions raised are universal, indeed.
And boy, does Berman raise a tangle of questions.
After being in a rocky relationship with Amy for 15 years, Isaac (a scruffy James Waterston) declares that “It’s a good time” for them to get married. He’d recently inherited their house in upstate New York from his beloved stepmother, and the headstrong, bossy Amy (Dana Eskelson) has a baby clock that’s ticking real loud. But is the time really right?
Visiting from “the city” for the weekend is confirmed bachelorette Emma (Annie McNamara), looking like some Williamsburg librarian with her smart dark-rimmed glasses and ponytailed auburn hair. She’s been Amy’s, and by extension, Issac’s, dear friend for years, but a newly discovered diary entry reveals that something deeper may be going on. The trio is thrown for a loop.
Emma, it must be noted, is a photographer specializing in both garbage and weddings. Go figure.
To complicate matters, the wide-eyed neighbor Josh (Elan Moss-Bachrach), who just graduated with a psychology degree from Bard, threatens to make it a love quadrangle. By play’s end, he proves to be more astute than the bumbling 40-year-olds. In Berman’s world, age does not always equal wisdom.
“A Perfect Couple” asks: Is being married really better than being single? In a real relationship, are you supposed to make each other sick? How can you tell if you’ve found “the one” or if you are just settling? Can we really trust our loved ones? And what the hell is happiness, anyway?
Not all of these dilemmas are new, and, to her credit, the playwright refuses to offer pat solutions. The characters are so profoundly drawn, even appealing during tantrums, and the language so sharp, that we find ourselves thoroughly seduced by the drama.
Directed by Maria Mileaf, the performances are solid across-the-board, though Eskelson, who has the biggest challenge uncovering the fragility beneath the bitchiness, is the most compelling. The cherished relationship between Amy and Emma is adroitly portrayed no surprise given that “A Perfect Couple” is produced by the Women’s Expressive Theater (WET), the resident company at the DR2 Theatre.
The no-nonsense set by Neil Patel –– who must be the busiest designer in the biz –– features a wooden backdrop, painted cobalt blue, in the outline of a house, contrasted by a yellow wooden dining table and an exceedingly realistic tree.
Each scene, ranging from several minutes to just a few seconds, is introduced by a cryptic title projected onto the house. Given that virtually the entire play occurs in the same place (the yard), in the same time (the present), the headers were more distracting than illuminating.
The overarching question, “Will Isaac and Amy make it to the altar?” is, in fact answered. But as I see it, the playwright makes the wrong choice, taking the logical way out.
And who knows — if “A Perfect Couple” were set in California or Massachusetts, perhaps the two women, who had the deepest bond between any of the characters, might have considered giving marriage a go.