Off-Off-Broadway Theater Review: LOVE’S END (Abrons Arts Center)

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by Sarah Taylor Ellis on October 19, 2012

in Theater-New York

A POETIC BREAKUP

The plot of writer/director Pascal Rambert’s play Love’s End is astoundingly simple. A long-term romantic relationship finally reaches a breaking point. The man confronts the woman in an extended soliloquy, after which the woman turns the tables and has her say. This familiar drama nonetheless plays out with incredible intensity.

Sarah Taylor Ellis’ Stage and Cinema review of LOVE’S END at Abrons in NYC

Love’s End premiered at the 2011 Festival D’Avignon. In a fresh English translation by Kate Moran, the US premiere – part of the French Institute Alliance Francaise (FIAF)’s Crossing the Line Festival – is a vehicle for engrossing performances by Moran, who was most recently a featured performer in Einstein on the Beach at BAM, and Jim Fletcher, best known as a company member of Gatz with Elevator Repair Service.

The set is nothing more than a bare stage at Abrons Arts Center with the house lights up. Jim and Kate (their characters’ names) enter through the audience, and Jim flips on the stage lights. From a grounded position upstage right, he begins his breakup speech with insensitive directness. Kate twitches in silent shock downstage left, the tips of her fingers tremoring with the news. Her high heels are ever planted firmly on the ground, but her body slowly crumples over the course of Jim’s diatribe.

Sarah Taylor Ellis’ Stage and Cinema review of LOVE’S END at Abrons in NYC

Nearly an hour later (although it hardly feels so long), a children’s singing group intrudes on the scene needing to rehearse – of all songs – “The Greatest Love of All.” During this delightfully ironic musical respite, Jim and Kate reverse places. Kate then commands the stage to rant, curse, and break down all of Jim’s pretentious intellectual justification their breakup. Kate emerges with the upper hand, if only because she is the more visceral, physical performer of the two; with a strong dance background, Kate wears her heart in her every emphatic gesture, while Jim’s character is the stiff, unfeeling initiator of the divorce.

Rambert’s direction makes the most of stillness and silence; the audience is as captivated by Kate’s subtle physical reactions as they are enthralled by Jim’s speech. Playing the breakup on such a sharp and striking diagonal allows the language to punch across one of the most dramatic lines on the stage. This staging is both an obvious and intentional choice; Jim and Kate are actors, after all. Jim has brought her to the theater where they work together to effectively “stage” their breakup.

Sarah Taylor Ellis’ Stage and Cinema review of LOVE’S END at Abrons in NYC

The boundaries between art and life are particularly porous for actors Jim and Kate – but in a breakup scene, we are all actors playing a well-rehearsed scene. Love’s End plays on the theatrics of relationships with thought-provoking force. While it undoubtedly plays best to an audience of theater practitioners, this poetic investigation of the power dynamics of a breakup will certainly resonate beyond just the artists in the crowd.

Sarah Taylor Ellis’ Stage and Cinema review of LOVE’S END at Abrons in NYC

photos by Michael George

Love’s End
FIAF at Abrons Arts Center in New York City
played on October 10-13, 2013
for more information, visit http://fiaf.org/ctl

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