By Karla Sorenson
Playwright Audrey Cefaly is not afraid to write a love story. Or a two-hander. Or a lot of two-handers. Because, she says, “People don’t fall in love with plot. They fall in love with people.” Cefaly gravitates toward “stories of healing” and characters whose lives are afflicted by what she calls “reckless apathy.” Alternately comedic and elegiac, 𝘔𝘢𝘺𝘵𝘢𝘨 𝘝𝘪𝘳𝘨𝘪𝘯 proves the redemptive power of love – in all its aspects.
Perspective is what the clever set by Kris Stone brings to mind. Two homes sit on opposite sides of the stage, while the action takes place in the middle ground, where laundry is hung, memories are shared, and dreams revived. And beyond that middle ground, your eyes zoom to infinity – the future and all its potential for love and loss.
Kati Brazda and David Adkins deliver powerful performances as Lizzie and Jack. Initially, the new neighbors find that middle ground quite broad. Wounded by life, they eye each other warily over an ubiquitous clothes line, flinging one defensive witticism after another. As director Eleanor Holdridge notes, Lizzie and Jack are each “suspended in their own world.” Both teachers, they share another commonality: grief – his, lingering over the years like his wife’s prolonged death, while hers, more recent, like an open sore.
Cefaly skillfully peels away the layers of armor that Jack and Lizzie have adopted to deflect the memories that haunt them. When Lizzie – fearful of her nascent attraction to Jack – considers a fence between the two houses, he asks her: “Just what exactly are you tryin’ to wall in?” Lizzie’s “trust issues” with the Maytag dryer aren’t just meant for laughs; they reflect her general opposition to the false god of convenience; she knows life is not so easy.
But Jack is in a different place, his grief dulled by time. He challenges Lizzie’s isolation, even as he struggles with his own self doubt. Jack’s in-your-face display of a Catholic statue intrigues Lizzie as much as his naked torso, which she can’t help but admire from the safety of her porch as he performs the minutiae of suburban life. It’s forbidden fruit that could save her – or damn her. The question is not only whether she is ready to have faith in love, but whether she is ready to have faith in herself.
And to figure it all out, one needs that perspective. The kind that time – and compassion and introspection – can bring. Only then can we be confident that no matter what hard times came before, there is always hope for the future.
𝘔𝘢𝘺𝘵𝘢𝘨 𝘝𝘪𝘳𝘨𝘪𝘯 – now playing at Merrimack Repertory Theater in Lowell until February 2.