Ambassador Theater’s latest production has just opened at Mead Theatre Lab. Happily Ever After’s three scenes explore the landscape of loneliness and aloneness experienced in various stages of “relationships.” Whether it’s a misunderstanding that causes a couple to inadvertently stand each other up, a one-night stand with emotional possibilities, or the inner turmoil of a couple “celebrating” their 30th anniversary, the pieces reflect how relationships are tricky, tenuous, and can turn on a dime, or as in one case, a well-executed tango twirl.
Karin Rosnizeck and Doug Krehbel as the main characters “She” and “He” play off of each other with familiarity and grace. Cristina Colmena’s playful script eases us into the characters’ conflicts while their interior dialogs describe what is, was, or could be. Director Hanna Bondarewska has a deft and steady hand in orchestrating the emotional dynamics that can see the underneath or explode in histrionic despair. Even the scene change where the actors convert a large dining table into a cozy bed helps to reflect the co-dependent interplay between characters—we need each other no matter how badly we might get along.
Rosnizeck has a blast plummeting the emotional depths of her characters. I last saw her as the tumultuous artist Camille Claudel in a new work several years ago and she covers swatches of emotional terrain throughout all three scenes here, too. The first scene, Misunderstanding, is everyone’s complete nightmare of missed opportunity. What would have, could have, should have happened if only this had been said or that done.
Rosnizeck is captivating from her first wordless entrance, biding time by nervously exploring the contents of her purse, looking around impatiently for someone who is obviously not going to show up. Across the table from her, Krehbel portrays a character just as perturbed waiting for his own no-show. Nicely directed by Bondarewska, the two are oblivious to each other’s presence but cross into each other’s physical space and connect to portray their sides of the story. Periodically, both actors look behind them at the large clock placed prominently back center stage, an obvious (maybe too literal) representation of the passage of time.
In Don’t Take It Personally, the actors convert two tables into a bed, crawl in, and begin to intriguingly unravel who they are to each other. Of the three scenes, this one has the most dramatic appeal because of the full range of possibilities between these characters—they’re obviously attracted to each other, and could possibly relate for more than a quickie, if they could escape their own self-imposed emotional barriers. Choreography by Francesca Jandasek and Dan Istrate embellishes the moments with a flourish using the tango to reflect passion, escape, and embrace.
HAPPILY EVER AFTER
Closes March 30, 2014
Ambassador Theater at
Flashpoint/Mead Theatre Lab
916 G St NW
1 hour with no intermission
Tickets: $20 – $40
[/ezcol_1third]The final selection Melodrama follows a couple trying to memorialize their 30th wedding anniversary by taking pictures of the colorful bedding, a present from one of their children. While husband takes picture after picture, wife shares what it’s really like behind the scenes, being resigned to a life of loneliness of living in her own head without an emotional partner to share her innermost thoughts. Effective costumes by Basmah Alomar help reflect a couple in elder years while the staged smiley photo-shots remind us of the disconnect between image and reality.
Sound and video design by David Crandall set the mood with fun-filled music selections that ebb and flow from bouncy, upbeat and dizzy fresh, to quietly reflective and melancholy.
The intentionally provocative title of this world premiere points to the illusion of a fantasy land filled with never ending romance, micro-arguments that vanish with a kiss, eye-gazing, hand-holding and sighs of contentment to the end of time. Instead, these couples deal with real life issues of prickly self-worth, lust that morphs into loathing, boredom, and overall discontent, with just enough sprinkles of joyful laughter and passion to make it through.
Happily Ever After by Cristina Colmena . Directed by Hanna Bondarewska . Featuring Karin Rosnizeck as She and Doug Krehbel as He . Choreography: Francesca Jandasek and Dan Istrate . Costumes: Basmah Alomar . Sound and video design: David Crandall. Produced by Ambassador Theater . Reviewed by Debbie Jackson.