Whether or not a relationship can make it is a persistent question in art as in life. But whether the relationship is good fodder for a play–or a text message conversation, for that matter–depends on a certain measure of uncertainty.
It’s a lot more interesting to watch a couple break up than to listen to them talk about it afterward. In Bedroom Mirrors, we see three short plays about couples trying to stay afloat–or sail away–amid the tempests of inconvenient love. The vignettes populate well-tread territory with fresh, “outsider” characters. Sadly, many of these characters had made up their minds before the play began, stagnating the action.
In the first vignette, “The Ticket” (penned by Chinita Andersen), the lights come up on Ron (Paolo Santayana) and MJ (Kelly Renee Armstrong) having sex. Ron, a traumatized soldier, then asks MJ to be his girlfriend, who reveals that she is actually leaving for India to do some provocative research as a sexual anthropologist. Ron doesn’t take this well.
Andersen’s script paints two multi-dimensional characters, but each one’s intentions are so obviously irreconcilable that I struggled to stay invested. Still, there are worse things that can happen than a break-up–and the script is not without some surprise.
Kelly Renee Armstong is warm and present as MJ, while Paolo Santayana’s Ron is passionate and volatile.
Unfortunately, the second vignette “Broken Mirrors” (by Poola Chawla) felt twice as long and half as engaging. Simran (Neelam Patel) begins the scene by telling her lover Tej (Dhawal Sharma) to “Get out,” and doesn’t show the slightest interest in changing her mind for the entire play. “Broken Mirrors” shows the pair re-hashing every detail of their break-up while playing out none of it in real time. Tej attempts to win Simran back, but their conversations only expose more and more reasons that the relationship isn’t going to work.
The verdict is made clear at the beginning, and the subsequent conversations far exceed the burden of proof. The subtlety and detail of Neelam Patel’s performance were a highlight of this vignette. The dialogue was not.
by Chinita L. Anderson, Pooja Chawla and Misha D. Clive
at Fort Fringe – Bedroom
612 L Street NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Details and tickets
In “Someone Who I Sometimes Am,” (by Misha Clive), Sam (Paolo Santayana) and pop-singer Magenta (Clive) met as cast-mates when the latter was becoming the first trans-woman to win a TV talent show. Sam wants to take their relationship to the next level, but Magenta fears he is only attracted to her feminine pop persona. As Magenta exposes how undefinably queer she is, straight-guy Sam has to work harder and harder to convince her that he is still interested.
The formidable script takes the complex, interwoven issues of gender identity and sexual orientation and enacts them on stage in real-time. In the end, this third couple–seemingly the most unlikely of Bedroom Mirrors–seemed to have the best shot.
Bedroom Mirrors featured detailed, impassioned performances of fresh characters, but the script required that the actors “tell” much more than “show.” As each character explained exactly why they could or couldn’t make their relationships work, the conflict became explicit to the point of boredom. Couldn’t the audience have just watched the characters interact, and made some of their own inferences regarding each couple’s fate? With such overt responses, the question of “Can this relationship work?” quickly loses its charm.