To Be Loved
nytheatre.com review by Matt Schicker
August 12, 2007
To Be Loved, Elixir Productions Theatre Company's entry in FringeNYC 2007, is an atmospheric, ambitious piece that asks some profound questions and has some beautifully evocative moments. But though there are flashes of clarity where the text, expressive ideals, and technique come together, neither the play nor the production ever is able to realize the emotional potential of this futuristic story of haunted love and interconnected lives.
The story of To Be Loved takes place in a futuristic world where, to quote the press release, "money, desire, and ownership of other human beings are tangled in a dangerous web." A monk, Seigen, can't shake the guilt and sorrow he feels for the sudden death of his young lover, Paul. When Seigen comes into contact with a female slave/prostitute, Anon, whom he believes is the reincarnation of Paul, he becomes obsessed with helping to free the woman from her slavery. There are many obstacles preventing these two from becoming free of their literal and figurative shackles, including Seigen's possessive female patron/lover, Dorian, and Anon's not-entirely-human owner, Dis. It's a disturbing look at a bleak future; corruption, cruelty, and desperation rule the day.
To Be Loved's problems lie primarily in its inability to find a consistent voice. The eerie, otherworldly ambiance director Jody P. Person delicately sets up in the pre-show and opening moments of the play is immediately shattered by opening dialogue that is jarringly at odds with the lyrical visual tone. Later, a troubling scene has a gorgeous, eloquent counterpoint in choreography, only for the "acting" scene to end in a banal "who shot who?" ending.
Throughout, the characters seem to often speak in clichés disguised as poetry. In all fairness, the material might be easier to swallow in other hands; all the actors give committed performances, but several do not have the skills required to make this material work, with its constant shifting between histrionics and subtlety.
Person's vocabulary for To Be Loved is an eclectic but uncomfortable mix of naturalistic acting, Kabuki elements, and dance. Dance is the most effectively-used language, with movement occasionally creating the tension, appeal, and catharsis promised by the pre-show tableaux. The core of the story—a man who believes his dead lover is speaking through a stranger—has a lot of potential, but Alex DeFazio's script needs to find as interesting a voice as Person's staging.
On the other hand, I found myself wondering if maybe this would be a great scenario for a ballet?