Orange Flower Water
nytheatre.com review by Shelley Molad
May 17, 2009
Set in the present day, in a small town in Minnesota, Craig Wright's Orange Flower Water is the story of two couples, David and Cathy Larson and Brad and Beth Younquist, whose marriages fall apart as a result of an ongoing affair that escalates between David and Beth.
The action revolves around a single bed, which serves as the focal point that brings these couples together and apart. With the actors visibly seated in chairs on each side of the stage, from which they enter and exit, we feel these characters always looming, literally and metaphorically impressing upon the events that take place.
The nicely detailed scenic design by James J. Fenton and Lisa Soverino's lovely lighting help differentiate the various bedrooms. Director Bryn Boice nicely stages the tension-filled scenes of this play, which include David and Beth consummating their love and dreaming of an uncomplicated future, the respective married couples handling news of the affair, and the wonderfully awkward scenes between David and Brad and Cathy and Beth, engaged in small-talk at their kids' little league games (we must not forget there are five children involved in this marital mess).
The charged scenes between Brad (Michael Poignand) and Beth (Laurie Schaefer), after the confirmation of Beth's infidelity, are quite compelling, as they cover the spectrum of human emotion in times of crisis. The same can be said about the vulnerability and resilience displayed by Beth in her scenes with David (Brent Vimtrup), as she must struggle between her love for him and devotion to her children. In contrast to Brad's reaction to the affair, Cathy (Jolie Curtsinger) appears unaffected by the news, as she forces David to have sex with her for one last time in a comic yet painful act of desperation. The laughter that this particular scene evokes, as well as the scene between Cathy and Beth at a baseball game, when Cathy jumps under Beth's umbrella and offers her some sour Skittles, results from our recognition of how human these characters are in their need to remain composed and in control of their lives amidst the obvious tumult. It is in these scenes that these characters are most interesting, as opposed to the scenes when characters remain alone on stage and recite aloud letters they have written, which come across as melodramatic soliloquies that overplay the obvious emotional undertones. This is more a criticism of the playwright, who has otherwise composed honest and raw dialogue.
Whether the resolutions these couples make are ones we can or should model is not as important as the message Wright leaves us with—that the decisions we make in life do not always make sense, but we cannot expect not to hurt people along the way, even if the decisions we make are the right ones.