KPBS AIRDATE: June 7, 2002
The tugs of love, the constrictions of expectations. Can we ever live up to what someone else wants or needs from us? It doesn’t matter if that person is parent or friend, lover or spouse; the pressures are enormous — too much, at times, to hold a relationship or a family together.
“An Infinite Ache,” by David Schulner, chronicles a marriage, from first date to death and back again. It’s a clever, modern riff on “The Four Poster,” written in 1951 and adapted as the 1966 musical, “I Do! I Do!” In all three, a center-stage bed serves as love-nest and battleground.
Here we meet Hope and Charles, she an independent Asian go-getter, he an unfocused Jewish neurotic. We view a fast-forward run-through of their metaphorical home movies, voyeurs to all the little moments that make up a lifetime. We don’t see the Big Stuff; we watch the small events and interactions that comprise their coming together and breaking apart, the lust and disgust, divorce and disease, kids and pets (both hilariously handled in a few choice sentences). The writing is sharp and witty, though it breaks no new ground. Yet we’re drawn to the couple, touched by their traumas and moved by their maturing love. The performances are compelling, by adorable Samantha Quan and affable James Waterston. The costumes and props slyly suggest the passage of time, and the inventive set design, by Yael Pardess, is a delight, with surprises popping up all over. The Globe’s associate artistic director Brendon Fox has mounted a solid and gently sentimental production that may not challenge the mind but it touches the heart.
Matters of the heart are also at the center of “The Goddess of Flowers,” a new play by local writer Thelma Virata de Castro. Here we find another cultural divide, in a budding Mexican-Philippine relationship. But the greater gulf is within one Filipino family, where the generational rifts and unfair expectations are crumpling souls and severing ties. The play still seems like a work in progress, but De Castro, who reveals an excellent ear for the rhythms of speech and family confrontations, has a lot to say about the underside of her community, though perhaps she’s trying to cram too much into one play.
Kudos to Asian American Repertory Theatre for presenting a world premiere. Artistic director Andy Lowe fares better with his direction than his hulking set design, which is revolved pointlessly every few minutes. His cast wasn’t quite ready for opening night. But Anna Navida is a real find, April Doctolero and Alex Gonazales are quite credible, and as the mythical, though over-used Flying Man of the women’s dreams, Jeff Lorezco is a striking presence. Ultimately, it’s not about culture, it’s about love: goddess, rescuer, stifler, destroyer.
©2002 Patté Productions