In an age where relationships begin with a swipe to the right – based on select photos and carefully written profiles – how do you really know you’ve gotten to know the real person behind the digital façade? What do you do when the initial excitement dies and you’re left with someone you don’t recognize? These are the questions asked in Clint Bagwell’s new play A Breakup is Swift.
As mentioned in his curtain speech, Bagwell has taken a transcript of a friend’s real life break up conversation and recreated it on stage. And here’s the really interesting part: at each performance, a different pairing of actors will play the two roles, switching up the genders. He hopes to see how the many different interpretations change the experience of the piece.
At the opening performance, Nick Duckworth played the clean-cut improv actor Cameron who is attempting to break up with the agitated artist Dale, played by Ben Kleymeyer. When Dale picks Cameron up from the train station for a romantic weekend, he is blindsided by Cameron’s revelation that he wants to end things. Cameron expects the conversation to be short, but Dale refuses to let him off the hook that easy, and they head to Dale’s place to discuss the minute, awkward details of their breakup.
As Cameron says at the beginning of the play, “I’ve heard a breakup is swift,” and perhaps this one should have been as well, both in terms of the action in the play and the audience’s experience of it. Even running under 45 minutes, the breakup lingers longer than needed.
A Breakup Is Swift
Presented by Clint Bagwell
Details and tickets
It is important to note that the relationship in question is only three weeks old. To many, three weeks is barely long enough to even warrant the term “breakup.” Which means the intricacies of the conversation can only go so far. Arguments quickly devolved to petty finger pointing, with neither of the gentlemen budging from his side. I was waiting for the bomb drop, for things to get ugly, or for a revelation that would lead to a higher conflict – but it never came. There was no waffling in decision from Cameron, leaving Dale to just snipe comments about the unfairness of it all.
Regardless, the play does delve into some interesting questions of culpability when a young relationship hits the rocks: did things move too fast? Is it the fault of the one who took it to the next level or the other who sat by and agreed when their heart wasn’t fully in it? How do we navigate those challenging yet crucial early days as pretenses and hormones begin to fade, and we start to see the real person in front of us?
Played ultra-realistically, Duckworth was convincing as the feeling but determined Cameron, just wanting to get out of the room and out of the relationship. Kleymeyer’s Dale was effectively awkward and downtrodden with the tendency to laugh off the situation in self-preservation.
The tech elements supported the show well. Lighting and sound were used effectively to convey the various locations as well as when the car was moving or sitting still.
While perhaps not a revolutionary breakup experience, A Breakup is Swift is a realistic look at a conversation between two people as their time together comes to an end. And this is only one facet of the larger event: who knows how the experience will differ with two new actors at the helm – it would be worth seeing more than once to get the full effect!
A Breakup is Swift. Director and Chief Artistic Mind: Clint Bagwell . Featuring: Ben Kleymeyer and Nick Duckworth (in the 7/9 performance) and Elle Sullivan, Gabby Jones, Maggie Murphy, and Josh Bartosch (in later performances). Music by Nora Desmond and Chain & the Gang. Stage Manager: Gabby Jones. Reviewed by Sarah Scafidi.