by Chad Jones of The Oakland
Tribune, published October 1, 2001
Players take a whole new "Approach" to love
Three 1/2 Stars - Enigmatic enlightenment
By Chad Jones
The Oakland Tribune
Four nameless characters
wander through a nameless landscape conversing about one thing: love.
They talk about
many things - comfort, happiness, nourishment, loneliness, protection,
frogs and scorpions - but as is the case in real life, all topics revert
Such is the indirect
approach of Susan Wiegand's beguiling new play ``Approach," the
latest production from the Shotgun Players. Shotgun has mounted this
play twice in conjunction with other short plays, but now Wiegand's
90-minute meditation on human attraction and connection is on its own
at the Eighth Street Studio Theatre in Berkeley.
The world is crowded
with explorations of love, romance and rejection, but there's always
room for one more, especially if, like ``Approach," it is a thoughtful
blend of intelligence and art suffused with a healthy dose of humor.
With sensitive direction
by Katie Bales Frassinelli and sturdy performances by a likeable quartet
of actors, Wiegand's play is a nimble dance through expressionism, realism
A serious yet lyrical
tone is set from the very first scene. A young woman (Marin Van Young)
in a red dress sits atop a large wooden trunk. A young man (Brent Rosenbaum)
appears playing a guitar and is joined by an older man (Aaron Lucich),
also playing a guitar. An older woman (Mary Eaton Fairfield) begins
to sing Nick Drake's pensive ``Which Will." Soon enough the whole
cast is singing about the choices that need to be made when it comes
What becomes clear
from this first scene is that even if the play tanks (which it won't),
the creative team has excellent taste in music.
The younger couple
is left alone on stage, and the woman eagerly asks the man, ``Are you
the one?" And he replies, ``I'm alone, if that's what you mean."
This may be an existential
musing but Wiegand wisely allows room for laughs.
The scenes that
follow are a series of mixed duets set against what look like four columns
of jagged marble (set by Michael Frassinelli).
In one scene, the
young man gently kisses the older woman and shares bread, an apple and
knock-knock jokes with her.
In another, the
older man and older woman indicate a shared history through their familiar
conversation and their passionate kissing.
The younger woman,
desperate to find ``the one," latches onto the older man because
he's rich. If he's not her soul mate, at least he can provide her and
her future children with comfort and security. ``As if security existed
at all," says the younger man in a jealous pique.
The older couple
separates, leaving the older woman hurt and rejected. ``But I won't
take it personally," she says but not without some difficulty.
All four actors
bring exactly the right kind of performance energy to this chamber piece.
Van Young and Rosenbaum as the younger couple keep their innocence and
eagerness from being cloying, while Lucich and Fairfield as the older
couple convey experience with a sense of still-unfolding, still-painful
an extraordinary monologue when she discovers that the older man is
going to marry the younger woman. Betrayal and jealousy quickly give
way to resignation. ``I will miss you," she tells the man at the
start of her good-bye speech. He clings to her as she speaks. She does
not cling back.
The play's ongoing
metaphor involves a frog that carries a scorpion on its back across
a river. The frog is apprehensive of the scorpion's sting, but the scorpion
reassures the frog that such a sting would be silly because the frog
would die and the scorpion would drown. Sure enough, halfway across
the river, the scorpion stings the frog. With his last words, the dying
frog asks the drowning scorpion, ``But why did you do that?" And
the answer comes, ``Because I am a scorpion."
sees women as the frog and men as the scorpion, but the wonderful thing
about the play is the way the characters are allowed to re-interpret
and re-design the metaphor to suit their individual needs. Apparently
the vagaries of love require fluidity in figurative language.
The characters in
``Approach" speak in a kind of grounded poetry, a semi-formal dialogue
that heightens the sense of dramatic artifice. We may not expect these
people to exist outside of their on-stage limbo, but we recognize and
begin to feel, with each succeeding scene, that their questions, passions
and pains are our own.
You can e-mail Chad Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org
or call (925) 416-4853.