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ISSUE 119 VOL 15 PUBLISHED 3/24/2006

'Savage/Love' transcends script

By Clare Kennedy
Arts Editor

Friday, March 24, 2006

On Friday and Saturday night, students crowded into Ralph Haugen Theatre to see “Savage/Love,” a play dealing with the many-sided nature of love, by Sam Shepard and Joseph Chaikin.

“One monologue can say so much. They're so universal, I think anyone can relate to them,” said director Megan Hughes ‘06, who chose the play for her Senior Distinction Project.

Though the show was very good in most respects, the performance seemed to suffer from a lack of context, a ground in which the characters could move and make their personalities felt. In a work where a chair is often the only prop, the language must do the heavy lifting; thus, the problem was not in the execution, but the script itself.

The production was at its best in monologues like “First Moment,” performed by Angela Gulner '09. Gulner’s character told a story of love at first sight in a post office. The audience got a sense of Gulner’s character, and was easily able to imagine the events described. More often, however, the script was simply a rundown of abstractions – a description, rather than evocation, of the feelings involved.

Also problematic was one of the central metaphors, which equates the end of a relationship to a slaying, as shown bluntly in “Killing” (1) performed by Jack Adams '09, again “Killing” (2) with Vanna Blomgren ‘06, and once more in “Watching the Sleeping Lover,” with Amanda Carson ‘07.

References to “killing,” though provocative, only have enough juice for one monologue before they begin to seem overdone.

Throughout the production, there was a tendency toward repetitive line structure, which seemed to dampen the actors' efforts to realistically evoke the feelings involved. Sometimes the device worked well; other times it seemed as if they were doing an especially good reading of a low-quality undergraduate poem. The same cadences popped up over and over, even when the audience finally thought they had been left behind for good.

For instance, it begins with “Savage,” performed by Blomgren: “You (emphatically) who makes me believe that we're lovers. You (sorrow, rage) who lets me pretend. You (meaningful silence, softer now) who reminds me of myself…”

As if that wasn't enough, the repetitive “you” shows up once more in “Absence,” performed by Kelsey Cramer '09: “You who are not here. You who are missing in my body…”

On occasions when the script allowed the actor to fall into normal speech in spite of the repetitious structure, as in “Acting,” performed by Carson, the play hit its stride.

Carson's character came out with a photo album and began flipping through it, narrating: “Now we're acting the partners in love. Now we're acting the estrangement. Now we're acting that the reconciliation was a success. Now we're acting that our love has been deepened by the crises…”

Carson’s monologue had a good mixture of tart wit, anger and sadness cut with tenderness. In other words, it did justice to the topic without melodramatic murder metaphors, or lapsing into cumbersome repetition.

Also effective were some of the dance scenes that Hughes added, choreographed by Katie Skare '06. These intimate moments, which could evoke the lust of a club or the awkwardness of a junior high dance, brought the play a sensuality it would not have had otherwise.

Most importantly, Hughes and the cast were able to squeeze out a poignant message with their faces, voices and minds to fill in the holes left by scriptural blunders.

“[The message] is just the idea that even though there are all these problems, you're willing to come back,” Hughes said.

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