Displays of Affection: Carnality & Riches
The art of divorce takes center stage in the two, one-act plays, Displays of Affection, holding forth at The Avery Schreiber Theatre in North Hollywood on weekends until November 11. The problems of intimacy and distance, love and disgust, get a working over by our two sets of stars and make George and Martha, the poster children for a bad marriage, lightweights by comparison.
In the first play, Carnality, by Mark Loewenstern, we meet Ben (Zach Dulli) and Michelle (Irene White) holding each other rather tightly in a warm embrace. It doesn't take us long to discover they're in the process of divorcing. While Ben is preparing dinner – for himself or both of them isn't clear – the various reasons for their separation became apparent and we discover that, for Michelle, the amicable divorce thing is not working anymore. Ben's bewilderment, his uncertainty, his frustration are hinted at but resolution is never achieved in the very short time allotted. We do know they both enjoy being held by the other. Will that need bring them back together? The curtain descends before we have an answer.
Riches, by Pulitzer Prize finalist Lee Blessing, is a play on both the last name of the couple and the fuller meaning of the term. Michael Dempsey as David Riches and Marypat Farrell as Carolyn Riches are celebrating their twenty-first anniversary by returning to a favorite hotel where they will be joined by their friends for dinner and celebration. As they continue to wait for their dilatory friends in the hotel room, Carolyn looks away from her husband and announces in a soft voice, "I want a divorce." and then repeats it a little louder for her stunned husband and even more surprised audience. The details, actions and dialogue which evolve from that pronouncement create a rather spellbinding hour of theater for everyone.
In both plays, the acting is better than the script. A most ambitious set is provided by David Cheaney. Matt Kirkwood's direction is gentle at times, rather harsh at others. In short, there is an apt sense of reality throughout. Three of the four actors also served as producers, giving added emphasis to the fine acting. In a gem of communication on the hazards of living with another person, Michelle turns to Ben and whispers, "You drive me absolutely nuts! And I say that without any affection whatsoever!"
Displays of Affection, The Avery Schreiber Theatre, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601, Tel. 323-960-5771,
Friday and Saturday @ 8:00 p.m.; Sunday @ 2:00 p.m.
www.plays411.com/affection Closes Sunday, November 11