Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Review: An Hour Long Portrayal of Abuse

by Kaila M. Stokes

Infinitely Yours, written by Darci Faye, is an hour long thriller that will leave you on a cliff. Darci Faye takes the audience through the slippery slope of an abusive relationship and ultimately makes you feel like that it could happen to you. It did the Hunker Down Initiative (the benefiting organization) proud.  It opened people’s eyes to how easy it is to judge women in abusive relationships, but ultimately it can happen to anyone.
Infinitely Yours opens with all four characters on stage on stools set up for them. Each actor stays on stage the entire show whether they are in the scene or not, which I will get to. Emily, played by Deb Radloff, is getting a coffee in a Starbucks when she runs into an old friend from High School, Jason. Jason, played by Andrew Hutcheson, is super ecstatic to see her and Emily is hesitant immediately. She reluctantly agrees to sit with him and have coffee, he even persuades her to meet up for drinks later as well. There is an unsettling feeling for the audience, but we did not quit know why yet. After they meet for drinks, Emily is sloppy drunk and they hook up. In the next scene, Emily’s fiancĂ© shows up. Derek, played by Kevin Kiler, is a well-kept man that is clearly looking to settle down with a nice woman that can hold a conversation. Emily and Derek go out to dinner and run into Jason and his wife! Tasha, played by Maria Tholl, is a timid shy woman that lacks any confidence to be pretty. Faced with this problem of Emily and Jason having hooked up, the uneasiness ensues into the next scene with Jason and his wife. Tasha is petrified of Jason and we soon find out why. Jason belittles her to the point of irreversible damage and physical attacks whenever he feels it is needed in order to discipline her. Without giving away the ending, it isn’t good and Emily fell right back into old habits.
All of the actors did a great job of working together and listening to one another. Each character was very different and had scenes written where their personalities could shine through. It wasn’t just about this abusive relationship; it was about how all of these characters connected to the abuse differently.  One major thing that needed to change was all of the actors being on the stage throughout the show. Some of the scenes were so intense you ended up watching the actors that weren’t in the scenes expressions! Another aspect of this was that some scenes required the action of getting a coffee or a beer and instead of going off stage to retrieve these props they were either on the floor or in bags that the actors had to open. It took away from the reality of the show. With that said, the space was very hindering itself. There is only a simple curtain propped up for a backstage; however, it would have kept the audience in the moment if the actors had used the backstage. Another directorial and writer choice was to have a very long make-out scene between Emily and Jason. It was extremely uncomfortable for the audience with the close proximity and how long it was! When they started to get intimate that would be another moment where a backstage could have been used to imply sex. The audience doesn’t need to see it. It actually dumbs down the content of the show when a scene is so “handsy”.
The lights were simple. Again the space seemed like it hindered the show, but it would have been great to have used the lighting to feel the intensity. When Jason got scary it was a good opportunity perhaps to narrow the wash of the lights or have more of a spot light on the actors to make it seem like there is nowhere for this poor girl to run. It would have helped the audience feel even deeper for the character. And then when Jason was out in public acting completely normal the lighting could act as an opposite to fit his bi-polar abusive personality. He pretends in the light and his true colors come out in the dark, like a monster, but he is just a guy that anyone from the audience could know.
The music transitions were used to change scenes, since again, all off the actors were on stage. The music seemed to match the tone, but scene changes with loud music take the audience out of the show. The lighting and a backstage would have fixed the transitions that made the audience look at their watch or other audience members while waiting.
Overall, Infinitely Yours, was a great drama that made the reality of abuse be known. It would do well at New York Theater Workshop or Playwrights Horizons. It was hindered by the space and budget. With more financial love and cohesive directing it is a great show that I recommended for a quick reminder of how lucky you are in your relationship. Maybe see it with a friend and not a partner. Hats off to the actors who stayed true to their characters and made it real.