A trio of one act plays: “Folded Hands”, “Love Divided By” and “Tango Finish” by gifted playwright Susan Charlotte make up the evening entitled “Love Divided by Times Three that has recently opened at the Kirk Theatre on Theatre Row.
It’s a strange, intriguing and disquieting evening of theatre. Dealing with the powerful effects of remembering or forgetting, rather blocking some memories too painful to deal with. It is something akin to going to a foreign art house film back in the 70’s but focusing on modern day relationships. Clarification coming only after seeing it in its entirety.
In Act I we meet the ten year old Sheila (Fatima Ptacek) who has obviously gone through something traumatic at home and stays behind with her teacher (Loni Ackerman) while the other students are at recess. Patiently and with kid gloves her art teacher tries to learn what the problem is. It’s more like therapy than an art lesson and we hear about her dad and brother and a fable about a bull but little else. The strangeness of it all kept the audience captivated in silence.
We next see the grown up Sheila (Lisa Bostnar) now a successful but troubled artist and her math genius, cab driving, foul mouthed and prone to violence brother David (Kevin Stapleton) who is visiting after a long estrangement. The tension is palpable. He unloads his problems and she grows increasingly wary asking many questions very much like her teacher did when she was a little girl. Where is all this going one wonders at intermission.
Then we officially meet Rose (Marilyn Sokol) the mother of David and Sheila – who has previously started each playlet speaking of memories. She is at a Senior Arts Center trying to help Mary (Loni Ackerman) who is having trouble remembering where she is and who she is at times but vividly remembering a dance couple that did a tango – a tango whose steps she cannot forget and dances beautifully to the haunting music of Billy Goldenberg with choreography by Gene Castle – in turn trying to help Rose through her blockage, her painful memories of her family and to come to terms with it all in order to move on. Or dance on, in this case. It’s the healing power of dance that comes to the fore in short black-out scenes resulting in an uplifting and emotionally satisfying ending.
Marilyn Sokol, foregoing her zany side delivers a strong, controlled and mesmerizing performance as Rose. It appears that this is the role that she has been waiting to play all her career. And she relishes it. As does Loni Ackerman. As the teacher she is calm and comforting. As Mary she can become befuddled and then radiant as she begins her dance. As young Sheila with a speech pattern that might drive one to impatience Ms. Ptacek is just right as the troubled ten year old. As her older self Ms. Bostnar gives a truly believable performance. Mr. Stapleton is fearsome with shades of sanity poking through. It’s an all around strong cast. Director Anthony Marsellis has mined all the drama, the humor and the dance in this unusual theatrical piece that defies categorization. Through Oct. 31st.