Monday, July 1, 2013

Dysfunctional Romance or Just Falling in Love? The Play Becky Shaw Explores the Gritty Side of Dating

The show Becky Shaw is playing at the PerformanceNetwork Theatre now until July 28th.  I attended on a whim last Friday night and schmoozed with the play-goers of Ann Arbor. After a brief interlude of  Lady Gaga (Boys Boys Boys) the stage lights came on and for the next two hours I found myself a spectator to a tangled love square where a simple blind date spirals into a commentary on race, class, jealously, and, oh yes, a few comedic jabs in between.
Newlyweds Suzanna (Sarab Kamoo) and Andrew (Keith Kalinowski)  set-up her old friend Max (David Wolber) with his coworker Becky (Maggie Meyer). It's a mismatched pair from the start: Max, a wealthy bully with a soft spot for Suzanna, and Becky, an astute Brown dropout that carries a lot of emotional baggage.

What unfolds is a dramatic comedy that throws love and power in the same ring to duke it out. With the death of her father, Suzanna turns to Max who knows her like a brother, until she meets Andrew, that is, an "indie-rock"  guy whose breathing exercises calm Suzanna--and every other woman in emotional peril it seems. Max is manipulative, Andrew is jealous, Suzanna is overdramatic. Becky Shaw couldn't have arrived at a more opportune time.

With her own problems of men, finances, and self loathing, Becky becomes ensnared in the others' character flaws. Her date with Max takes a terrible twist leaving Becky to reconcile the actions of her past lovers. Her need for affirmation allows Max to use her, Andrew to pity her, and Suzanna to laugh at her. The only character that actually seems to respect Becky is Suzanna's mom, a dame of a woman whose relationship advice is to keep "pockets of privacy" between couples.

With a slight bend toward melodrama, the play has a sardonic sort of humor that keeps it from teetering over that edge.  Despite some moments where I thought Suzanna's head was going to blow up from dramatic effect, I liked the questions the play provoked. Does it take a bit of manipulation to get someone else to love you? Is a relationship authentic if you don't know everything about the other person? And why do I feel like these characters are people I know and love in my own life? 

If you're looking for a date night sorta play where afterward you can discuss the pros and cons of finding love in a generation that is economically stressed out and self-absorbed, then look no further.  But, if you're the easily offended type than you might be better off taking a cup of tea at Crazy Wisdom across the street. Jokes about being gay, racist, dying, and the Iraq war fly around the stage almost as often as the f-bomb is dropped. I had a few guilty chuckles at some lines, but then again I laugh at Sarah Silverman's standup.

All in all, a worthwhile Friday night, and an inside peek into Ann Arbor's small but classy theatre venue. As for me, next time I'll bring my own date. 

Erica Bloom, Guest Writer for Damn Arbor 

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