A lifetime of happiness. A death sentence. A sacred institution. A tax break. In Ball and Chain, the M word is put under the microscope courtesy of seven new plays that focus on the happily ever after as few have before. From immensely absurd to absurdly immense, the stories remind us that problems don’t start or stop at the altar. Relationships can be as much, if not more, about hard work as they are about love.
The show starts off a bit slow, with a cutesy “compatibility tester” skit with an oddly chauvinist slant, but then really starts to blast off. The next play magnifies the communication gap between the sexes with a one-word-per-line script that is both hilarious and heartbreaking. Another looks at a smitten GPS and the object of her affections, but, unfortunately for him, not her directions. Still another explores the strains of pregnancy, and the eye opening that follows planning for parenthood. As the night went on, the stories continued, some bewildering, some all too real, but all exploring how men and women learn to speak a common language, or die trying.
The cohesiveness of the plays was due mostly to the cast being limited to (or should I say liberated by) the constraints of two actors onstage at all times, Krista Cowan and Tyson Theron Slocum. The hard work and skill the two showcased on that stage really ensured the night came together as a coherent whole. The characters portrayed were distinct, but the common bodies being used reminded that these issues are by no means only applicable on a case-by-case basis.
In the last play, we lose the man-woman dynamic that had been used throughout. Instead, Slocum plays a small child caught in the middle of a parental divorce, and due to it, gains a somewhat unhealthy obsession with the city of Berlin. What starts off as a whimsical puppet show becomes a truthful and beautiful insight into the heart of a child from a divided home. A reminder that sometimes these relationships can affect more than two.
In the end, Ball and Chain delivers a strong message on the enduring possibility for two people to connect, through a mix of lightheartedness and poignancy.
- Running Time: 70 minutes
- Tickets: Ball and Chain
- When: Fri, July 18 at 9:30 . Sat, July 19 at 9:30 . Wed, July 23 at 9 . Thurs, July 24 at 8:45 . Sat, July 26 at 1
- Where: Universalist National Memorial Church, 1810 16th Street, NW