Love looks different on the stage

Written by Artistic Director Erin Reilly

Love and time.  These days at Theatre Horizon, when I speak of “love” I am also speaking of “time,” and of lifelong commitment—the till-death-do-us part dance between soulmates.  We are currently rehearsing An Infinite Ache, a play that presents a couple’s fifty-year marriage in one 90-minute rollercoaster ride.

And therein lies the challenge that makes this love story different than every other love story on TV or in the movies:  how do we make 50 years pass by believably onstage?  How do we show people getting older, moving in and out of different houses, buying and discarding furniture and clothes, while getting us to buy in to the story of their lives?

Normally, you’d do set changes during the blackouts or intermission.  But the playwright has banished those from this play.  You could hide a bunch of costumes and props backstage, but Theatre Horizon’s set designer, Oona Curley, has designed a gorgeously open and simple set with just three walls and a bed in the middle of the stage.  There’s no room to hide.  So, how do we make actress Bi Jean Ngo age from 27 to 80 years old without leaving the stage much?

Remember when the awesome special effects in Benjamin Button convinced you that Brad Pitt was moving backwards in time?  I’m a sucker for that kind of love-story/time travel fantasy.  But, I’m also a realist.  The theater can’t compete with the special effects of the silver screen.

So what?  There is a very different kind of delight, as I watch An Infinite Ache rehearsing this week, in watching the magic happen in real time.  I can literally see how the actors are doing their tricks, yet at the same time, I totally believe the story they are telling.  Because my own imagination trumps computer-generated imagery every time.  In the time-honored tradition of theatre, the actors and designers work their tricks, and the audience fills in the rest.

So, I’m waiting for you to come to this show, and complete the story.

The actors will transformIMG_5858-all-white, the costumes will roll on and off their bodies, the lights will shift, but the audience is the final ingredient.  The last trick up our sleeves is glorious, free, unadulterated human imagination.  Hope to see you at the show!

Caption: Actors Bi Jean Ngo and Griffin Stanton-Ameisen play “Hope” and “Charles” in An Infinite Ache, starting February 1.  Photo credit: Kathryn Raines

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