The Constructivists stage a captivatingly complex meeting between two people to the stage with the Midwest Premiere of Jennifer Lane’s contemporary drama To Fall In Love. Two estranged people learn to connect again on an intimate stage as Madeline Wakley and Matthew Scales intricately deliver the complexities of emotional entanglement in an interaction that lives onstage for a little over 90 uninterrupted minutes.
As the play opens, Matthew Scales is alone and restless onstage in the role of Wyatt. He’s fidgeting about on a set that’s been meticulously detailed by designer Sarah Harris to look like a contemporary furnished apartment lacking any real personality. Harris does such a good job of delivering the painstakingly generic flavor of modern interior design that its lack of personality almost becomes a kind of personality. It’s a neutral ground on which two people meet to discuss matters.
Before long Wakely arrives as Merryn--a woman who is running late. She is there to meet with him over a prepared list of questions. The questions around which the drama are centers are a New York Times list of “36 question yo can ask someone if you want to fall in love. (Or make your love even stronger.)” For the curious, there’s kind of a cool website that can walk any couple through the questions.
Lane’s use of the questions allows for a very rigid structure around which to slowly be introduced to Wyatt and Merryn. Details of Wyatt and Merryn’s relationship gradually develop in a very organic interaction between two people. Even the best actors can have difficulty finding the emotional center between two characters when they’re the only ones onstage for over 90 minutes and no intermission. Director Jaimelyn Gray and Assistant Director Emmaline Friederichs have developed a really natural interaction between the actors in spite of the artificiality of the stage.
Wakely and Scales use just about every corner of Harris’ set. The restlessness keeps the physical energy flowing quite well. The real accomplishment here is that nearly every movement across the stage feels perfectly natural. Tow people moving across the stage in a drama like this can feel like a lot of...blocking...but Wakley and Scales feel very natural moving from one place to the next gradually in the course of the drama.
Wyatt and Merryn have only a limited amount of time and a limited number of questions in which to make any connection they’re going to make. They’ve both been through a lot and it’s made totally clear that this may well be the last chance they have to really make things work. Lane sets it all out very instinctually. Details of the lives of Wyatt and Merryn slowly reveal themselves as the audience bears witness to a deep conversation between two people who know each other quite well. In under two hours, emotions resonate vividly on a cozy underground space in the heart of downtown.
The Constructivists’ production of To Fall In Love runs through April 39 at the Underground Collaborative on 161 W. Wisconsin Avenue. For more information, visit The Constructivists online.