“That’s just like us!” The man in the front row says to his wife in a not-so-quite whisper.
He’s captured the gist of the fun, quirky and insightful piece that is Ben & Lucille. This stand-out play is a relatable new approach to a familiar story. The title duo are people that we know. They feel real. That’s what makes it great.
Ben and Lucille meet in a motel room in Philadelphia. She is a graduate student living in New York, he is a struggling painter based in D.C. As the night wears on, the repressed frustrations brought on by their long-distance relationship bubble to the surface. Old fights and new wounds open up as they test their commitment to one another.
Elan Zafir’s script is funny, honest and challenging. In a matter of seconds Ben and Lucille flip from blissful celebration of their reunion to facing off in uncomfortable and aggressive arguments that they’ve had before.
And again. And again. It’s a dance that is all too familiar to anyone who’s ever been in a serious relationship, long-distance or otherwise.
The action and dialogue clip along quickly but it’s the slower moments of reconciliation or decay that clue us in to the true nature of Ben and Lucille’s relationship. The humor grabs your attention but witnessing the characters struggling through the tougher bits is what sustains your interest.
Ben & Lucille
by Elan Zafir
at Lab II – Atlas Performing Arts Center
1333 H Street NE
Washington, DC 20002
Details and tickets
Together these two are just so much darn fun to watch! You can tell that they trust each other and are really enjoying their life onstage. Their passion is infectious and it’s impossible not to care about how everything will turn out.
Orion Jones’ direction gives the actors plenty of room to play and the simple set comprised of a bed, table, chairs and bed stands is fully utilized. In a clever moment of confrontation Lucille stands on the bed above Ben, literally claiming the higher ground in their argument. The blocking expands and contracts the space, building tension and underscoring the characters’ changing motivations.
For a “work in progress” (so called by Zafir) Ben & Lucille is a commendably successful project. If this is just an early glimpse of what is to come, consider yourself lucky to be the first to enjoy it.