Stages

Review: I Wanna Fucking Tear You Apart Is a Friendship Laid Bare at Rivendell

Teressa La Gamba, Robert Quintanilla, Jessica Ervin. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

I Wanna Fucking Tear You Apart is a sometimes raunchy, sometimes enlightening look at relationships and co-dependence, offering a twist on the traditional romantic dynamics; our main focus is not a couple, but rather a passionate, though (as revealed as the story builds) severely toxic friendship. This scenario allows playwright Morgan Gould to examine some universal truths about relationships, and variations on fidelity, competition, deception, heartbreak, and desperation.

Sam and Leo are very much in love with each other– they are roommates and best friends from college. Both are writers in New York, and we are introduced to their world of inside jokes, reality television, and compassionate camaraderie. Sam (Teressa LaGamba) is a freelance hustler, constantly juggling odd jobs (grants and ghost writing soulless YA fiction) with making headway on her debut novel, while Leo (Robert Quintanilla) begrudgingly works at a Buzzfeed-like website, while not making much headway on his poems, or short stories, or whatever is his flavor of the week.

But the two keep each other motivated and inspired; Sam urges Leo to set deadlines and the pair serve as editors for one another’s projects. It’s an intense, ride or die friendship, but when Leo brings home another friend from work, Chloe (Jessica Ervin), their dynamic is thrown into a tailspin, as Sam must deal with the jealousy and betrayal felt when your “person” doesn’t feel exclusively yours any longer.

Gould writes with a quippy, self-aware pen that feels very much at home in the TV watching, pop-culture-obsessed world of these two writers, and much of the first half of this one act flies by. It is oftentimes very funny, thanks very much to the chemistry between LaGamba and Quintanilla. They are charming and oddball in the right ways, with a great sense of comedic timing and just the right amount of sentimentality.

And the power dynamic introduced once Chloe comes into the picture feels honest– we’ve all been there, in romantic relationships and friendships as well, where the comfort of a closed bond is suddenly threatened by outside forces. But it is from here that Gould’s script begins to waver and doesn’t ever fully recover.

I won’t spoil it here, but the last third of the play relies on a shocking twist that is just a little egregious to believe, and despite what feels like an earnest attempt at truth, director Jessica Fisch and cast teeter into melodrama when the play could really use some grounding. It’s a shame too, because you’ve grown to like Sam and Leo so much over the course of the play, which roughly spans a year and some change, but some late-in-the-game monologues and reveals undo a lot of the credibility. And there seem to be too many endings–the play doesn’t know which threads to tie up and which to leave loose, so it ends up knotting them together.

That said, the team at Rivendell have, for the most part, developed a punchy, entertaining production. Sound design by Jeffrey Levin is lively and infuses the evening with energy, director Jessica Fisch mostly nails the staging on Regina Garcia’s detailed, cozy set, and projections from Anthony Churchill add a slick charm to the quick, episodic scenes. And for a play featuring a dysfunctional set of misfits, characters that aren’t often the heroes on stages big or small, I Want To Fucking Tear You Apart is a welcome, fresh take on some old themes.

I Wanna Fucking Tear You Apart is 97 minutes with no intermission and runs until March 23 at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, 5779 N. Ridge Ave. Tickets are $28-$38.

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