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THEATER REVIEW Out of Love
by Jonathan Abarbanel, Windy City Times
2019-09-04

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Playwright: Elinor Cook

At: Interrobang Theatre Project @ Rivendell, 5779 N. Ridge Ave. Tickets: 312-219-4140; InterrobangTheatreProject.org; $32. Runs through: Sept. 14

Out of Love makes me think about my older sister and her rare visits to Chicago, during which she deeply bonds with female friends she hasn't seen in years. That's a compliment to the play and production.

It confirms the idea—reinforced by female friendships depicted in literature ( at least literature authored by women )—that women form enduring relationships more profound than male buddy relationships. If this isn't true, then women have been gaming us forever!

This contemporary ( 2017 ) British play is about all that, presenting 15 or so brief scenes spanning 30 years—not chronological but not random—from the lives of Grace and Lorna, two Northern England friends from childhood. Playwright Elinor Cook's pithy writing is neither elegant nor eloquent, but it's utterly believable and to the point as Grace and Lorna share everything as besties will and should: family trauma, boyfriends, sex details, resentments and in a final tender scene, dreams/hopes of an unachievable future for their daughters. Grace remains in the provinces while Lorna escapes to London, not that Cook offers much detail about their jobs or even what connects them point to point. The play isn't a biography but a slice of psychology.

Out of Love is extraordinary in an ordinary way, for there's nothing especially distinguished nor distinguishing about Grace and Lorna … and yet it made me think of my sister and how she's special, not compared to other women but compared to me.

The play is not a wild emotional ride—emotions generally are repressed and subtextual—yet it demands much from actors because there are no transitions between scenes and so little factual exposition. Actors must turn on a dime from scene to scene, making leaps in age, head space and even geography. It's much to the credit of Laura Berner Taylor ( Grace ), Sarah Gise ( Lorna ) and Peter Gertas ( all the boys and men in their lives ) that they accomplish this with ease and grace, and are instantly in the moment of the next scene. Georgette Verdin is the director who has guided them so skillfully.

The physical production is as spare as the play, but nonetheless handsome as designed by Sotirios Livaditis ( scenic ) and Michelle E. Benda ( lighting ). The completely neutral unit set consists of six low-rise platforms layered over each other like cards casually tossed on the floor, but nonetheless rising to a small peak, framed by a rectangular skewed shadow box, open at the back to neutral cyclorama. Except for one chair and a small bench, all props—cigarettes, underpants, babies, etc.—are mimed. Benda's lighting plays with color, especially favoring blues and lavender. It seems as emotionally neutral as the play and, like the play, it isn't.


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