by Leta Tremblay · August 21, 2014
What is love? Where do we find it? Why are we constantly searching for it? And how do we know when it’s time to let it go?
LOVENESS: I will only love you once by Craig “muMs” Grant doesn’t so much answer these questions as it peers into the rise and fall of the relationship of one couple made up of two visual artists. Who they are as individuals, the choices that they make, is not nearly as important as the attachments that they form with each other, the secrets that they keep, and the void that they hope the other will fill. Anyone who has ever been in love can recognize these patterns and we soon realize that it’s just a waiting game until shit hits the fan.
muMs’ poetic language lifts off the page and comes pouring out of the mouths of his characters like a warm embrace. This should be no surprise as he is an internationally known poet performing on TV and stages across the U.S., Europe, and Africa. His words speak for themselves:
“Gorgeousness - that which sits in the root of Loveness. Other than this there is no endearment for or otherwise to describe the messages careening through the mind. None can fathom the entire empires of atoms to a power of infinity that can explode from a kiss. Gorgeousness that that which sits in the root of Loveness.”
Jill DeArmon directs with brilliant minimalism by utilizing only two chairs to set each scene. Gestures indicating props are choreographed movements ripe with simplicity. Never once was I confused or felt that more was needed on stage to effectively communicate the action. It was refreshing and an excellent example of focusing one’s energy on acting and the story in the limited time available in a FringeNYC production.
This focus and attention was evident as LOVENESS featured by far some of the strongest performances that I have seen in FringeNYC this season. Meridith Nicholaev and Jinn S. Kim as the romantic leads, Isabelle and Carlyle, inhabit the lives and idiosyncrasies of their characters fully bringing forth their charming, awkward, damaged, destructive, and human choices with unpretentious honesty.
Kelley Rae O’Donnell shines as the therapist helping Isabelle work through her trauma and attachment to a past lover. O’Donnell is quirky, off-beat, concise, and dynamic in the role utterly transforming as necessary depending on the situation and tactics at play. She is Isabelle’s sounding board, her cheerleader, coach, motivator, challenger, mirror, and shoulder to cry on. Ultimately she assists Isabelle in finding the words for this crazy thing called love.
Do Isabelle and Carlyle love each other? Is their relationship positive? Thriving? Do they boost each other up and support each other when things are good and when they’re bad? Do they belong together?
The play doesn’t attempt to answer these questions. Nor should it. Love exists outside of logic. It is not an idea easily expressed. It is not a feeling easily found. And it is certainly not a status easily maintained. All the more reason why poetry has and will continue to be the medium that we use in our striving to name it, to understand it, to capture it … and hold it close.