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THEATER Intrigue with Faye
by Catey Sullivan
2008-04-23

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Playwright: Kate Robin

At: Infusion Theatre Co. at the

Royal George Theatre Gallery

Space, 1641 N. Halsted

Phone: 312-988-9000; $$20, $25;

$10 Mother's Day

Runs through: June 1

Therapy as theater. That's the foundation of Kate Robin's overlong but largely compelling Intrigue With Faye. As live video merges with Robin's scripted barb of a romantic comedy, audiences become privy to every subconscious motivation and Freudian slip shaping the troubled relationship of Lissa ( Leah Nuetzel ) and Kean ( Steve O'Connell ) .

You need a sturdy tolerance for navel-gazing, narcissism and psychobabble to get through the ballad of Lissa and Kean. Intrigue would be fresher and sharper at 90 minutes or less—at two hours, it pushes the audience's capacity for tortured confessions and painful self-revelations to its limit.

Yet, as directed by Mitch Golob, Intrigue is, well, mostly intriguing. The video/live-theater combination is risky business, something anyone who saw the clunky, poorly incorporated attempt at fusing the two in GreyZelda's recent A View from the Bridge or Oracle Theatre's Scotland Road quickly realized. But Golob, working with video designer Lucas Merino, pulls off a seamless combination of the two as the Lissa and Kean film their every move in an attempt to strengthen their foundering relationship.

Lissa is cut from the cloth of cliché: She's a therapist with—guess what? —her own profoundly unresolved issues. But in Nuetzel's sharp, authentic performance, Lissa is the rare cliché who also seems real. O'Connell's Kean is equally good, traversing the emotional spectrum from painfully vulnerable man-child to ardent lover to insensitive douche.

As Intrigue begins, we see the two—projected on a bank of video screens above the stage—sucking mad face in the hallway to their apartment. The screens go dark when they enter in the flesh, still making out with a vengeance until Kean off-handedly picks up a pile of unopened mail and Lissa suddenly cramps up with a crippling stomach ache. Clearly, there are problems underneath this couple's het up surface.

Sure enough, deal-breakers start cropping up as Kean haltingly admits to sleeping around. Arguably, even worse—he's been watching Lissa's videotapes of her sessions with troubled clients, tapes intended only to be seen by her supervisors for the purpose of evaluating her work.

Robin delivers a long set-up involving these tapes, but within the over-lengthy exposition comes a high point of hilarity when Kevin Stark shows up on screen as one of Lissa's unhappily married patients. She earnestly delivers a bunch of textbook blather about latent hostility, mothers and other such staples of therapy. ( ending with the eye-roller, 'How does that make you feel?' ) Stark shrugs and responds, 'No, see, my wife is just a bitch.' It's a marvelous, sometimes-a-cigar-is-just-a-cigar moment.

To her credit, Robin doesn't tie things up with tidy sitcom bow at the end—Can this relationship be saved? There's rarely a definitive answer to that question. Smartly, Robin doesn't offer one.


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