To love or not to love (big sigh), that’s the ongoing tragicomic question that continually prods the single in spring with the torture of amour, the do’s and don’ts and the “no matter what you do, it ain’t gonna happen.” If you’re tired of depending on your own lovelorn misfortunes for entertainment, you can safely laugh at those of others now until May 11 in Could This Be Love?, a selection of quasi-vaudevillian vignettes fluttering around that most cherished and dreaded emotion, presented by Flanders Theater Company at the Trinity House Theatre in Livonia.
Local playwrights Kitty Dubin and Kim Carney have teamed up to pummel us with heartache after heartache in a gaggle of dramatic skits that subdue the viewer with a sensation not unlike eating chocolates out of a heart-shaped box: It’s sweet, sometimes chewy, with an occasional predictable bite or pleasant surprise.
Meltdown, the opening Carney minidrama, wreathes around itself in a loose dress-slip and workin’ man jeans, with dialogue all swarthy and sweaty, like, “Do you mind if I smoke?” He answers, “Hot things usually do.”
It’s a steamy, smart-mouthed, no-shame volley between a woman (Annie Palmer), half-dressed and fresh out of the convent, and a man (Mark Barrera), fresh out of the joint and looking for something to wet his whistle. But the hot and heavy comes to a halt because someone can’t keep their tongue in their mouth in this play within a play.
If you’ve tried everything and your husband’s still leaving you, blame the body. In Dubin’s Skin Deep, Lise Lacasse is convinced her happiness depends upon what reflects off the mirror in her hand. The death of a 10-year marriage has flung her into the singles-bar meat gallery so, like many women, she turns to her plastic surgeon (Timothy McKernan) for solace. But nips and tucks and fuller lips don’t give birth to self-respect. The scene delivers a few good laughs before dissolving into Chinese-menu silliness and eventually lives up to its name.
Carney’s contributions tend to dig a little deeper than Dubin’s, especially in the show’s soft-hearted, solitary centerpiece, Alone Together. Two tables rest beside each other center stage. A man (Barrera) sits at one and a woman (Lacasse) at the other. As if in a crowded restaurant, they each carry on one side of separate conversations; because of Carney’s clever timing, their answers end up creating their own enlightening conversation — unbeknownst to the speakers — with irony invisibly mediating the two.
Just as Lacasse tells her married-with-kids girlfriend that she doesn’t need a guy to make her feel complete, Barrera tells his unseen girlfriend that she makes him feel complete. Lacasse defends her singleness with a resolved, muted despair — that is, when she’s not lashing out at her successfully married friend. And spending most of his time watching his “blond of interest” flirt with other guys, Barrera sits patiently, like a heart on a table, in a constant state of open-wound vulnerability, tears ready and waiting for anything. It’s a sad repetition and overlapping of emotions that manifests a relationship between two people who never know they have one, magnifying a sense of isolation.
The evening is topped off with a double Dubin: Bye Bye Love, a dressed-in-black illustration of lovers colliding in this ménage à trois with a casket, and The Joy of Sex, a wild and raunchy visit to the marriage counselor that goes just about where you’d expect it to.
So what did you do to piss off Cupid? Just what are you putting out there that always sends the unemployed ones your way? If you’re tired of trying to figure out where that “I Date Freaks” sign is plastered on you, take a break from loneliness at home for some heartbreak onstage and share a lighter-side laugh with Trinity House at love’s little earth-shattering mishaps.
Could This Be Love? by the Flanders Theater Company runs through May 11 at the Trinity House Theatre (3880 W. Six Mile Road, Livonia, corner of I-275, just east of Haggerty). For tickets, call 313-538-5739 or 734-464-6302.Anita Schmaltz writes about theater for the Metro Times. E-mail her at [email protected]