“And so the general of hot desire / Was sleeping by a virgin hand disarm’d.” Thus Love’s Fire begins, with God cast as the general of hot desire. The scene is the biblical tale of Adam and Eve and the short play of which it is a part goes all the way through the betrayal of Christ. That the humor is forced and the delivery inconsistent actually sets the stage well for a night of uneven theater.
Love’s Fire is a collection of short plays that take their basis from Shakespearean sonnets. Some scenes are quite successful, while others, like the overwrought first piece, are less cohesive.
However, the show follows its uneven opener with one of its better vignettes, “Bitter Sauce.” In “Sauce,” Rengin and Herman create an excellent contrast between abusiveness and meekness. Although predictable, Rengin’s double betrayal makes for an entertaining spectacle as she sways drunkenly across the stage and alternately sputters expressions of love and despair.
Betrayal is an idea that again recurs in the symbolic piece, “140,” which draws its name from the number of the sonnet that inspired it. The staging is simple yet effective. As the vignette begins, the stage is partially lit, with two characters in the foreground and others behind, all connected by ropes that they hold fast. As a web of deception and disloyalty is gradually woven, the ropes become increasingly tangled. This symbolism works surprisingly well because of the scene’s deliberate unraveling.
The highlight of the evening, however, is “Terminating, or Lass Meine Schmerzen Nicht Verloren Sein, or Ambivalence.” Set in a psychiatrist’s office, it focuses on the conversation between a shrink, Laura (Kiran Deol), and her needy, gay patient, Hendryk (Clint Froelich). Hendryk is a marvelously crafted character, at once thoughtful and highly amusing. He lapses into different states throughout the fairly long scene and muses on existence and the inherent ambivalence of man. While Hendryk is ranting, Laura is concerned with her own pain and pleads with her lifelong partner, who is seated in the audience. The vignette is well balanced in its content of serious contemplation and humorous antidotes. Froelich is towering as Hendryk; he radiates dysfunction. His character remains the most memorable of the entire production.
The direction of Ingrid A. Liff ’04 makes good use of the small Adam’s Pool Theatre. In several scenes, she manages to integrate her actors into the audience, creating an intimate effect.
As the show is presented, the sonnet that inspires each play is previewed via an overhead projector. Though the sonnet is visible long enough to be read, not enough time is allowed to soak it in and appreciate how it relates to the other sonnets. This is an apt metaphor for the play, which is often captivating, but never quite comes together. One leaves the theater entertained but yearning for greater connection.
Ingrid A. Liff ’04
Nov. 15 through 17
Adams Pool Theatre