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Mechanics of Love

Theatre Review by Howard Miller - September 12, 2016

Anastasia Olowin
Photo by Joe Pickard

A ballerina without a spine, a lonely and very forgetful man, his perfectionist wife, and an auto mechanic go round and round and round, swapping partners, playing endless games of Charades, and trying to understand life and love and the meaning of it all in Dipika Guha's quirky and fanciful comedy Mechanics of Love, now on view at the Paradise Factory.

Anastasia Olowin plays Francesca, a former dancer from "Mother Russia" who relocated to the unspecified Western European city where the play takes place when she could no longer perform professionally. An accident destroyed her spine, although she has an artificial implant that allows her to move about more-or-less normally. She has continued to practice, but, sadly, she has lost her ability to put the individual components together and soar. Her dance movements are more like those of the wind-up doll in the ballet Coppélia.

There are compensations, however. For Francesca has discovered that what she is good at is "being in love," something she does with happy abandon over the course of the evening. She partners in turn with each of the play's three other characters, starting with Glen (Sathya Sridharan), a sweet-tempered sad sack of a man who has some sort of "condition" that causes him to intensely love a woman, and then, suddenly, to forget her completely.

One of the women Glen periodically fails to remember is his wife Faizi (Victoria Frings). In fact, he so completely forgets her that he periodically goes off and marries other women, one of whom is Francesca. No one seems to be terribly distressed by Glen's behavior, including Faizi. "I got used to it," she says." I started factoring it into my planner."

Later, Francesca and Faizi fall in love with one another, as do Francesca and Georg (Eric T. Miller), a mechanic who is friendly with Glen and who later winds up marrying Faizi. In fact, the only pair who do not hook up are Glen and Georg. Periodically through this wild carousel ride, the characters muse over the logic, the "mechanics" of how they all feel and act, even the "mechanics of cloud movements or grass growing," as Georg puts it. But there are no answers. Just trade partners, play some more Charades, and try to be happy.

The playwright has a knack of creating unconventional situations, eccentric characters, and often-funny dialog, and thanks to a committed and talented cast and Elena Araoz's fast-paced direction, many individual moments work beautifully. But the overall effect is like Francesca's dancing; the elements are in place, but the whole is less than the sum of the parts. This could be Francesca's play if she were more in the spotlight, or the others less so. It makes sense that as the "prima ballerina," she would be changing partners so often. There is also a touching moment at the end when she recovers her ability to take flight, but the play itself remains earthbound.

Mechanics of Love
Through September 24
The Paradise Factory, 64 East 4th Street between 2nd Avenue and Bowery
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