Stages

Review: Out of Love at Interrobang Theatre Shines a Light on Female Friendship    

Out of Love by English playwright Elinor Cook is unique in its focus—not on hetero or same-sex love—but on intense female friendship. The Interrobang Theatre’s U.S. premiere production portrays the cycles of women’s lives through the friendship of two women. Childhood, adolescence, boyfriends, young womanhood, maturity, illness, trust and betrayal—it’s all there in an intense performance directed by Georgette Verdin.

I suspect women in the audience will remember their own best friends (we didn’t call them BFFs then) from childhood. Parental restrictions and neighborhood boundaries affected what we could do, where we could go, and the presence of boys brought about pangs of jealousy, even though we knew deep down that our friendship was more important than any old boy. And college or not, jobs or not, marriage and motherhood or not, could change everything. But we still were best friends.

Taylor and Gise as Grace and Lorna. Photo by Emily Schwartz.

Grace (Laura Berner Taylor) and Lorna (Sarah Gise) are childhood friends, living somewhere in north east England. Grace is aggressive, independent, interested in sex from an early age. Lorna is quieter, more studious, less sure of what to think about her own body, more likely to attract male attention. Grace gets pregnant very young and gives up thoughts of college to raise her daughter Martha. Lorna continues on to school and career, always with a boyfriend at her side. In middle age, she says to Lorna, “Did I tell you I’m single again? I’ve been single for three months. That’s the longest ever, since I was thirteen. Isn’t that ridiculous? I don’t know what I was always so scared of. I’ve discovered I like being on my own.”

Cook’s play delineates that special warmth in female friendships that are different from others. I know from watching and  listening to my own sons that their guy friendships, even the close ones, were different.

Grace says, in an unusual moment of reflection, “Do you think maybe people don’t understand what it can be like? That fire. Between two women. “ And Lorna responds,  “I’m not sure I understand what it was like. With us. “

A man is often involved. A playmate, a buddy, a father, a boyfriend, an employer, a lover. Peter Gertas is tasked with playing many different men as the plot twists and turns forward and backward on itself. Sometimes the scene switches are so fast that you can’t figure out who this guy is now. Wait—is this Ted from the last scene? Is he her father? The playwright wrote the play to be cast this way and I think her intent is to intensify the nature of the female relationship by genericizing the male characters.

Gertas, Gise and Taylor. Photo by Emily Schwartz.

Having said that, Gertas does a credible job of being Everyman to Grace and Lorna. And Taylor and Gise are warm, argumentative and ultimately loving as the two friends.

Out of Love careens along through the cycles of Grace’s and Lorna’s lives in 75 minutes; the later scenes seem really rushed. There are times, such as in the last scene, where I wasn’t certain, even after reading the script, who the two characters are. I probably have never said that a play could be longer, but I think that playwright Cook could smooth out some of these rough spots by fleshing out some of the scenes, even if it means adding 10 minutes to the script.

The set design by Sotirios Livaditis is expressionistic and minimal, with irregularly shaped angular platforms rising from the stage floor. One chair and a bench are enough furniture. And props are all mimed rather than real. Lighting design is by Michelle E. Benda and costumes (one per actor) by Steph Taylor. British pop music provides most of the sound track with sound design by Erik Siegling.

Out of Love by Interrobang Theatre Project continues through September 14 at Rivendell Theatre, 5779 N. Ridge Ave. in Edgewater. Curtain times are Thursday-Saturday at 8pm and Saturday-Sunday at 3pm. Tickets are $32; $16 for students and industry members.

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