Monday, February 22, 2016

Review: Burning Love

Meet Tom and Eliza. Eliza has an affinity for burning books and having her back touched. Tom has an affinity for living in the bathtub and being scared of his kids. Let's watch the evolution of their relationship. In Celine Song's sensational Tom & Eliza, the journey from first date to the bitter end is chronicled in rapid-fire succession.
Tom & Eliza is not your typical romance. Song writes a tale where, rather than showing and telling a couple's journey, the pair narrate their lust, love, fears, and desires. Situated on a couch for the entirety of the play, this is storytelling at its finest. Equipped with rapid-fire dialogue and a knack for not leaving a single, descriptive detail out, Song is unafraid to be crude and crass in her text. The concept is simple but the way Song structures her script sets it apart. It’s so basic yet captures the essence of love and marriage. We learn about Tom and Eliza’s first few dates, the events that followed those dates, their rush into marriage, the inevitable coming of children, and the hardships of falling out of love. Song rarely leaves a beat out, though there is a big jump from date to marital bliss. It’s explained much later in the night that the third date lead to a proposal but it may be more interesting to see some steps in between. And that just may be selfish desire to get more of Song’s story. There is a poetry to the way Song crafts her play. Through repetition and calling previous beats, it defines the brilliance of her script.
photo by Knud Adams
With no blocking to be had, this play needed to be sold through captivating storytelling. Thankfully Tom & Eliza employed two steady actors. Eliza Bent and Daniel Kublick dazzled as the titular pair. Kublick’s geeky persona made his anguish heartbreaking. The amount of trust between the duo kept the piece ticking. Their rapport was strong but Eliza Bent managed to shine just a bit brighter. Bent is heavenly. She is magnetizing as a performer, drawing you in with every smirk and line. Eliza Bent is a star on the rise.
Parallels were a huge theme in this production. It was device that Song utilized heavily in her script. Director Knud Adams matched this in every single element of his concept. And it was exquisite. From a design perspective, Adams capitalized the uniqueness of JACK by isolating the space to the center of the floor where a black carpet of petals played host to the couple’s couch. Flanking the small stage were two photography lights that spotlighted the pair in vibrant fashion. It brought out a twinkle in Bent and Kublick’s eyes, especially when the tears built up in Eliza’s eyes in the end. Adams choreography of physical shifts for his actors were in tune to the poetry of his playwright’s text. Adams capitalized on the power of body language. It told the story stronger than you could imagine.
Tom & Eliza is bound to make you laugh, gasp, cry, and ponder your own life and relationships. You’ll be enamored with Celine Song’s play from lights up until black out. These artists are ones to keep on your radar.