nytheatre.com review by Fred Backus
August 15, 2004
What was your first sexual experience? What was your worst break-up? What are your feelings on marriage? The answers to these and other questions, posed to more than fifty urban women by director Hayley Finn, interspersed with live original music by Kat Goldman, form the theatrical collage Question Love. Taking on the voices of these women, performers Kathleen Early, Sharahn LaRue, and Susan O’Connor create a portrait of the modern woman trying to negotiate the perils and pitfalls of dating, looking for a balance between the values and goals inherited from past generations and the pressures and aspirations of the present.
This is not exactly new ground, but an innovative approach might justify taking these interviews off the tape or the transcript and placing them on the stage. Sadly, the staging and design elements here seem tacked-on and arbitrary. Goldman is a talented musician and songwriter with a beautifully textured voice, but her musical numbers do little more than set a wistful mood, and don’t seem to justify the prominent place they hold in this piece. The projection screen, used mostly to flash questions and names, is used in particularly trite and unimaginative ways. At one point a woman describes a romantic partnership as one in which two circles come together and form the infinity symbol; we then watch two circles meet on the screen—do we really need help visualizing this? But certainly the most dismally uninspired moment has to be when the cast and audience together watch an actual scene from When Harry Met Sally.
And if Finn’s research shows that a large number of women are indeed citing When Harry Met Sally as a seminal movie on the modern relationship, perhaps one of these women could be asked why they feel this is so. But the questions don’t seem to lead the women interviewed to draw many conclusions from their anecdotes, nor does Question Love seem to be interested in piecing these testimonials together into a work that poses new questions itself. That Question Love remains engaging is a huge credit to its trio of actors, who do a wonderful job across the board of inhabiting and delineating its many voices without succumbing to the temptation to over-dramatize them or send them up. Question Love is a work-in-progress, and will presumably appear again with new interviews in different forms. If so, I personally would love to see it attempt to be more truly challenging and thought provoking, rather than simply cathartic and sentimental.