Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Orange Flower Water (InProximity Theatre Company)

By Molly
a well-written play by the guy who wrote Six Feet Under and Brothers and Sisters • inaugural production for a new theatre company • sexually charged • conflict-heavy • thoughtfully produced and performed

Laurie Schaefer and Brent Vimtrup in Orange Flower Water. Photo by Blair Blackman.

BOTTOM LINE: A perceptive play about love and infidelity.

I was excited to see InProximity's inaugural production of Craig Wright's Orange Flower Water because I am a big fan of Wright's work and because it's always fun to see a fledgling company fresh out of the gate. I was impressed with the production; the four person cast attacks these characters with fervor and empathy, exposing their humanity despite a tricky, immoral situation.

Orange Flower Water was written in the early part of the decade and performed off-Broadway at Theatre For the New City in 2005. It is the story of two suburban couples intertwined in a messy love affair. David (Brent Vimtrup) and Cathy (Jolie Curtsinger) are married, so are Brad (Michael Poignand) and Beth (Laurie Schaefer). They're all pretty unhappy but are set in their ways with their children and lives. After a few years of benign flirting at soccer games, David and Beth finally make a move and their affair becomes official. Their spouses find out, they leave them and move in together. The message is that sometimes you have to hurt innocent people to make yourself happy...life is never as neat and easy as it should be.

The stakes are high in this play and the actors do their best to deliver aggressive emotion with empathy for their individual plights. Everyone is sort of the victim of their own desire for happiness, and the audience witnesses David and Beth make it out of their tedious despair, in exchange for true happiness with one another (although it comes at a very high price and might not even last forever). Everyone is wounded in one way or another. Wright is a master at writing dysfunctional relationships at their breaking points. His previous work includes TV shows Six Feet Under, Brothers and Sisters, and Dirty Sexy Money; he is great at exposing sympathetic honesty in confrontational situations.

The four actors do their best to tell the story with honesty, although the space at Theatre 54 is a bit distracting. The night I was there my attention was often pulled from the play to the opera auditions in the room next door, and then to some other audience members cracking open smuggled-in cans of Heineken (it's not a Nascar race folks, a little decorum please). But those distractions are clearly not the fault of anyone involved with the play. All that aside, and although the production is a bit self-aware at times, the story resonates strongly in the four actors (who remain on stage throughout the performance...a blocking note specified in the script). Orange Flower Water is a great play that delves into intense relationships that feel all too real and InProximity does the script justice with this production. I respect that their first show is a ballsy one and I look forward to subsequent offerings.

(Orange Flower Water plays at Theatre 54, 244 West 54th Street. Remaining performances are Thursday, May 28 at 8pm, Friday, May 29 at 8pm, Saturday, May 30 at 8pm and Sunday, May 31 at 2pm. The show runs 1 hr. 30 min. with no intermission. Tickets are $18 and are available at ticketcentral.com. For more show info visit inproximitytheatre.org).

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