Two actors, 60 years, one love story, 82 terracotta pots. That's the premise of blessed unrest's latest production, lengthily titled Certain Things, Which I Will Call Sacred (The Lovers' Project). Certain Things... is an amalgamation of pieces of text, drawn from a variety of authors and time periods, all concerning love (or lovers).
More specifically, it roughly traces the story of one couple (Matt Opatrny and Jessica Burr) over 60 years, from young lovers to a very old married couple. Each scene is a different piece of text. Sometimes bits are repeated; sometimes the order is changed. Only the old couple has any sort of textual continuity -- they repeat the same conversation over and over again. Periodically the man forgets his place in it, whereupon the old woman gently reminds him and they pick up right where they left off. They have some tender moments together, especially the dance scene at the end.
Overall, however, Certain Things is essentially an exercise in textual manipulation -- it's not much of a play. There is no larger theme or issue to engage the audience. The selections in the text are excellent, but it's kind of an odd assortment -- where's Ovid? Neruda? Tennyson? Other romantic standbys? More importantly, the actors said the words, but didn't seem particularly invested in them -- they didn't seem to be in love. Opatrny and Burr were blessed unrest company members, having proved their acting ability again and again -- it was a shame this was not a better vehicle for their talents.
The stage was devoid of decoration -- it was blank, and black, with scattered groupings of terracotta pots -- and the actors did their best to fill the space, but there was't enough movement (physical or textual) to accomplish that task. Director Lucy Smith Conroy did her best to work with the space and the text, but her last effort, blessed unrest's All's Well That Ends...Well was much more inventive and energetic.
Still, it was creative, and it was touching (as many love stories are). Opatrny and Burr had a soft and charming chemistry together, and Smith Conroy is one of New York's most talented up-and-coming directors. And for 70 minutes long, the play conjured up some intriguing thoughts about the nature of love.
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Copyright 2004 Jenny Sandman