“You go home with a stack of books, I go home with a suitcase full of empty condom wrappers,” quips Lizzie (Stacy Mathison) to Olivia (Alex Johnson), and no scene or snippet of dialogue in Olizzia better describes their relationship. It’s the classic pairing of bed-ready beauty and girl-next-door geek, with a twist: these two best friends are destined by the portmanteau title to end up together.
The show opens with a joke from Olivia as to why Lizzie can’t find her pants: “Sweetheart, we had sex last night.” It’s a lie, one they both laugh off, and the plot careens forward as Lizzie discovers her passport is missing, leaving this curious nugget in the dust.
As the pair entice hotel staff to do their bidding and discuss past lovers and relationships, they continually dance around what’s missing: a true connection, a safety that makes relationships worthwhile. Ultimately, they realize this connection is stronger with each other than with any of the men they’ve ever engaged their varying levels of emotions towards.
But despite that realization, Olizzia doesn’t exactly present itself as being about discovering sexuality; instead, it’s more concerned with encouraging a different sort of self-understanding.
The two girls each vehemently deny shifting their entire views on sexual orientation (with Olivia even describing herself as an “aggressive heterosexual”) because the play’s focus isn’t on possible relationships, but rather on this particular one between Lizzie and Olivia. Olizzia isn’t a deleted flashback from Orange is the New Black, but rather some curious blend of Will & Grace (Mathison’s delivery of Lizzie’s sharp-as-a-tack jokes is definitely charged with a Messing-esque spark) and CSI:Rio. It’s not a bad thing, but can leave some promised messages muddled in the mix of Sorkin-speed sass and sparkling conversation about how to avoid being murdered by a serial killer during a one night stand.
by John Bavoso
at The Shop – Fort Fringe
607 New York Ave NW
Washington, DC 20001
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In this regard, the truly poignant chunks stand out — Lizzie’s disgust with the phrase “be safe”, Olivia’s fumbled attempts to explain why the book she’s reading is a serious novel and not “Fifty Shades of Gay” (to quote Lizzie), and the ongoing push and pull of their frayed nerves as they seek to find some solid ground in the tumult of their freshly understood bond.
Ultimately, Olizzia may be a little talkative and hasty towards its resolution, but its heart is in the right place: soul mates can come from where you least expect them, so keep your eyes (and mind) open.
John Bavoso writes for DC Theatre Scene. It did not affect this review.