Stages of Love: MBS and Broken Gears

Ache is the sorrow of the soul…

That finds in its path a fragrance

Of burnt acorns and emptiness forlorn.

The view from the land of the crow

Is that of bitter peace.

For desolation is the home

Of my traveling soul.

Love is a battlefield and a counterfeit and an inspiration and a conundrum. Do you prefer yours doled out in refined, elegant chapbooks or drenched in acrid sweat, beer and blood?

Two Dallas area productions offer valid and vastly different options for celebrating St.Valentine’s Day February 14, providing sustenance for the soul, fodder for post-play discussion and perspectives on that singularly elusive emotion and state of being.

That thing called love.

Out at the Stone Cottage in Addison, MBS Productions offers an ephemeral trifle, 24 hrs. of Love, that reveals hidden depths along unexplored pathways to the heart. Two early 20th century couples in Madrid, one rich and elderly, the other their youthful attendants, visit a park daily over the course of years, to take in the sun, visit the swans, read a little poetry. Their visits never coincide until one chance day the young formally attired male attendant comes alone for a walk and discovers the proper young female attendant crying, alone and lonely, seated on a bench. Their discourse is refined and courteous; he sits beside her only if she so indicates, inquires politely for her welfare, offers a linen hanky, no direct eye contact. Yet the subtext reads charged with the rapturous energy that results when the unanticipated discovery of mutual heart’s enchantment occurs. They fall in love.

Cast: 24 hrs. of Love

At once. The young pair scheme to get their daily strolls with the elderly employers to coincide. This is no small task, as each older person has a “schedule” to keep and much to grouse and lecture about, objections to raise. The real delight transpires when the elderly couple finally meets face to face and makes a rare discovery…. Mark-Brian Sonna directs and translated the work from a Spanish script by Alejandro de la Costa and Joaquin and Serafin Alvarez Quintero. His four-person cast is exquisitely costumed and well suited to their characters, if a bit unsteady and tending to “recite” on opening night. There’s plenty of underlying sizzle in this script; by now Cupid’s darts should buzz the air space above their heads. The handsome cast includes: Laura L. Watson, Rey Torres, Adrian Godinez and Janye Anderson.

MBS Productions’24 hrs. of Love runs through Feb. 20.

Go to www.MBSProductions.net or 214-477-4942 for tickets.

Far, far on the other side of love’s tracks, Broken Gears Project Theatre in Irving presents an equally delightful production of John Patrick Shanley’s Danny and the Deep Blue Sea (Apache Dance), as passionately romantic in its own rough, raw, quirky way as the previous play. In his one act two person work, Shanley presents us with a pair of disillusioned lost souls, alienated losers, awash in pugilistic self-loathing and soul-burning loneliness. Both carry a shameful secret and cannot be set free to love until they confess their dark deeds. A play fit for Valentine’s celebration? You bet.

Danny and Roberta: John Hunter photo

The sorrow and disgust the audience feels observing the hostile, angst-ridden wallowing get far surpassed by the redemptive elation that sweeps over audience and characters alike as love and hope lead to transformation. You see it coming, and you really want to witness and celebrate its arrival.

John Patrick Shanley is best known for his 1988 Academy award-winning screenplay for Moonstruck and for his stage play Doubt: A Parable, which won the 2005 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play and the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play. He also wrote the screenplay adaptation for the Academy-award winning film version. Danny and the Deep Blue Sea (Apache Dance) was his first published play and got its initial professional premiere at Actors Theatre of Louisville in February 1984 before moving on to a successful run in New York. In it, he explores imagery and ideas that get fuller treatments in later work, and the final scene feels somewhat superfluous. But the crude vitality, the heart-wrenching loneliness and the arc of transformation of the play’s two characters grab the audience’s attention from the start and hold focus to the end.

In Broken Gears’ production, director Nathan Autrey places Roberta (Whitney Holotik) on stage before the audience arrives. She sits slumped at an upstage table in a seedy bar, slovenly, sullen and forlorn, staring into space. Danny (Joey Folsom) hurtles in, beer pitcher and glass in hand, and collapses at a down stage left table, where he proceeds to catch his breath, guzzle the beer and wipe a generous splattering of blood off his face, shirt and hands with a filthy beer-soaked rag. He’s one scary-looking dude. Even with the dim lighting, you can’t miss the hostile tension as it builds between the two characters, determined to ignore each other even as they feel drawn together. Director Autrey hones in on the magnetic pull of the characters, nudging it along with subtlety belied by the crude language and jarring Bronx accents. As the characters reflect on the ocean and the fake moon, an almost oceanic rhythm pervades the work. The play’s lyrical poetry weaves through the crude dialogue, wooing the audience into believing that real love can come of a one-night stand in almost the same way the two characters come to believe it. Autrey carefully fixes the audience’s ear to resonate with the play’s lyricism in how he has his characters relate.

Folsom’s Danny is so real, so complete in every detail down to the blood-soaked eyebrows and shoulders slumped in resignation, you can picture him being some ne’er-do-well truck driver who picks fights unprovoked. He’s the sort of dim-witted guy “stuff” just happens to, true love never crossed his mind. He explains to Roberta, “I ain’t never planned no single fuckin’ thing in my life. I ain’t never done nothin. Things happen to me. Me, you, what you did. We didn’t do that stuff. It happened to us.” And then after their screwing, their conversation lights a fire in Folsom’s Danny until we see him stand tall and straight, radiating fired up hope and love. We believe him and want it all to be real.

Danny and Roberta: John Hunter photo

Holotik has a harder job with Roberta, to make her transformation believable. Her character suffers more inwardly. She throws a brief tantrum in the bar scene and tries to brush Danny off brusquely after their tryst; otherwise, she reacts, she envisions, she pretends, she dreams. We can’t see all she is on the surface. It would be an easy path to jack her up as a weepy melodrama wench, in order to match Danny’s extrovert energy. Instead, director Autrey has Holotik keep a translucent reserve, maintain her mysterious darkness, which masks her grief and rage at her terrible secret. As the onion layers of rage roll off Danny’s downtrodden persona, they peel much more slowly off Roberta. The audience feels drawn into the lovers’ “apache dance” as Folsom’s Danny reaches out to Holotik’s Roberta, transformed by love. Neither is left to drown in the “deep blue sea”; they have found each other. What more powerful statement about love could a play make? Sophisticated directorial choices, two masterful, in balance, riveting acting performances.

Broken Gears Project Theatre’s Danny and the Deep Blue Sea (Apache Dance) runs through February 20 at Industrial Strength Productions, 1957 East Irving Blvd., in Irving.

CALL AHEAD for directions! 817-470-6378

Tickets and info: http://www.brokengearstheatre.com

In this box, in this trunk,

you will find

the vestiges of me

where my soul is the sorrow

and the sorrow is the ache

and the ache is the sorrow of my soul….

Excerpts from a love poem by Mark-Brian Sonna, 2007

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One thought on “Stages of Love: MBS and Broken Gears

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