Regional Reviews: Los Angeles
Three Views of the Same Object
Also see Sharon's review of Year of the Rabbit
It's a look at three couples, long married, their children grown. In each family, the husband has a difficult diagnosis: cancer. And while the details aren't revealed to us, we know that the condition is painful, the fight has been long, and there's a real issue of whether it is worth it to keep fighting. Each couple faces the future differently. One, the happy couple, still deeply in love with each other, makes their decisions hand-in-hand, together. In the second, less happy, couple, the husband ends his fight, leaving the wife alone. The third and most interesting couple is somewhere in between. Held together by a realistic combination of affection, frustration and inertia, they argue and drink their way into an uncertain future.
And they're all the same couple. Three View of the Same Object follows three versions of the same couple through the very same period of time; each version differing only by the decisions they've made that have brought them to this place. Henry Murray's play rather elegantly makes the point that it really isn't the cards you're dealt, but the way you play them, that matters.
Rogue Machine's production features a dream cast. K Callan and Shelly Kurtz are Jesse and Poppy "2"the Jesse and Poppy who are still adorably in love and playfully horny. Kurtz is downright cheerful when delivering a line like "I poop better when I have vegetables." Callan and Kurtz are just so darned cute you expect them to rub noses any minute. And it's clear that their optimism and togetherness have better enabled them to weather the storm than the other Jesses and Poppys. It's apparent in how gently Callan's Jesse broaches the subject of maybe giving up the car, in how annoyed (yet amused) they are by the unnecessary attempts of a friend, Mrs. Widkin, to check in on them and bring them food, and even in their dress. Stephanie Kerley Schwartz (also on set design) dresses her actors in costumes that illustrate how much, or how little, they still make an effort.
At the other end is Nancy Linehan Charles as Jesse 3, the one left alone. She is heavily dependent on the assistance of Mrs. Widkin. Her Jesse is alone, unhappy, and weak. She messes up her apartment when looking for something, but it isn't that she's mentally unhinged, she just doesn't care anymore. Charles plays the Jesse bereft of her Poppy, and when she says, "Hating someone is sometimes how you know you still love them," you know exactly what she means.
But it is Anne Gee Byrd and Allan Miller who have the meatiest roles, Jesse and Poppy 1the couple not quite in love and not quite in hate, but clinging to each other in a relationship having been made all the more interdependent by declining health. Murray's writing is at its most realistic with Jesse and Poppy 1; their words sound like the petty arguments, lacking any real venom, which come out of the mouths of people together so long they've forgotten there are other ways to communicate.
Three Views of the Same Object is a good play, with top-notch performances, which addresses a subject that isn't often addressed. I hesitate to whole-heartedly recommend it to everyone, as one of its main plot lines is a suicide pact between Jesse and Poppy, and how the couple responds to the pact when Poppy, but not Jesse, has become ill. ("Mom, Dad, there's this great play I want you to see; but don't get any ideas.") I'm mixed on the message of the playto the extent Murray is saying that being hopelessly in love with your spouse is the best way to survive aging, I very much want him to be right. But to the extent to which he seems to be endorsing mutual suicide as a happy alternative to the difficulties of growing old alone, I have some concerns. And yet, the fact that the play makes you genuinely think about these issues makes it a very worthwhile endeavor.
Three Views of the Same Object runs at Rogue Machine through November 4 at 5041 Pico Blvd., in Los Angeles. For tickets and information, see www.roguemachinetheatre.com.
Rogue Machine Theatre proudly presents the world co-premiere of Three Views of the Same Object by Henry Murray. Scenic and Costume Design Stephanie Kerley Schwartz; Lighting Design Leigh Allen; Sound Design Christopher Moscatiello; Property Design Hazel Kuang; Assistant Costume Design Kellsy MacKilligan; Technical Director Richard Dominguez; Production Manager Amanda Mauer; Stage Manager Ramón Valdez; Managing Director Laura Hill. Produced by John Perrin Flynn, Matthew Elkins and Edward Tournier. Directed by John Perrin Flynn, Brett Aune & Hollace Starr.