Regional Reviews: St. Louis
In Meredith Dayna Levy's new comedy, Coupler, it seems that romantic fantasies actually make us stronger, or at least more focused, confident and outgoing, in the way we prepare to meet Mr. or Miss Right. (I'm separating fantasies from pornography, which only seems to make strangers rude. But that's another story.) It should be pretty to easy to set up a hypothesis for the experiment, e.g., romantic fantasies make you better at "putting yourself out there," in a more prepared manner. And in this case, our study follows six or eight Londoners, all of marriageable age.
You may have heard of the "Missed Connections" page on Craigslist, where you can send out a description of someone you saw on mass transit, or anywhere, really, and maybe that person remembers you too. And then you get married and live happily ever after.
Coupler, currently being produced by Tesseract Theatre, is not about Craigslist, but it is about mass transit and missed connections. Christopher (Andrew Rea) meets his "manic pixie dream girl" (Rachel Bailey, as Sadie) on a London tube train, becomes smitten with her, and then spends the next two years or so trying to bump into her again. (Like all manic pixie dreamgirls, she is exuberant and impulsive, and spends most of the play after that first appearanceappropriatelyas a figment of Christopher's imagination. But she'll reappear eventually, in a way that delightfully ties everything up at the end.
And I don't mean to sound surprised, but this is also a very uniformly strong cast, which has occasionally been a problem for Tesseract Theatre in the past. Director Katie Palazzola also appears on the long, narrow "stage" with Bridget McDonald, playing a pair of amateur, panhandling ukulele players, singing covers of appropriate songs as other riders, including would-be lovers, get on and off the train.
Anyway, there's a mystery over who will find love and who will just stumble in and out of awkward encounters, as a semi-mystical announcer (crisp and lightly absurd Amanda Brasher) calls out the stations and the passage of time, and even the states of mind they go rattling through in the London Underground. It's all breezy and furtive and funny. Although (being about people in their 20s or maybe 30s) it's also a lot about young men at loose ends, behaving irresponsibly, and young women who are constantly surprised about it.
The through line of the story is tidy without being pat, generally focusing on Christopher's roundabout writing career. And that's how he meets Emily (Anna Hecht), through his publisher's assistant (Bre Love), and also how Emily meets Glenn (Darrious Varner), through his sister Samantha (Annalise Webb). The wordplay in their private scenarios is witty and elegant, taking us on a ride that is surprisingly smooth.
Coupler, at Tesseract Theatre through September 24, 2017, in the .ZACK performance space, 3224 Locust Street (just west of Compton, and north of SLU). For more information visit www.tesseracttheatre.org.