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Theater Mon May 20 2013

Orange Flower Water: Breaking Apart Two Families

Orange Flower Water is a wrenching marital drama where the bed is the heart of the matter, both literally and metaphorically. The bed is the centerpiece of each scene, with quick changes of covering signaling changes of venue. The four characters are two couples who live in the same neighborhood and whose children play soccer together. One of the partners in each couple wants to end their marriages. James Yost, in his first Chicago directorial outing, directs this smartly written play by Craig Wright, author of television scripts written for "Six Feet Under," "Lost," "Brothers & Sisters," and "Dirty Sexy Money."

orangeflowerwater-GB.jpg

Keith Neagle and Ina Strauss; photo by Claire Demos.

The 90-minute drama is a co-production between the Barebones Theatre Group, a recent transplant from Charlotte, NC, and the Interrobang Theatre Project, a three-year-old Chicago company. Barebones is merging with Interrobang for the 2013-14 season and Yost will be co-artistic director of the merged company, along with Jeffrey Stanton of Interrobang.

The play opens as Cathy (Cyd Blackwell) prepares to leave on a business trip and writes a to-do list for her husband, David (Keith Neagle). She ends her monologue by telling him how much she loves him and how important he is to her. Scene one blends into scene two, where David and Beth (Brad's wife, played by Ina Strauss) are in a romantic motel room scene. The tension of this and the following scenes are enhanced by the setting: Four chairs are placed in corners of the stage and the other characters are present even if not "on stage," looking on at their spouses or lovers.

David and Beth have been flirting and smooching in secret for several years, finally deciding they are married to the wrong people. They leave their spouses and children, breaking apart two families to create a third. Beth's husband Brad (played by Joseph Wiens) seems to be a loud-mouthed, vulgar jerk ("everybody knows I'm a prick") but he fights hard to keep Beth in their marriage. She insists on leaving, even though she knows that "living without my children [will break] my heart." Blackwell gives a strong performance in a stormy, sexy breakup scene as Cathy tries to convince David to stay, but it ends with David's departure.

The location is clearly a suburb or small city in Minnesota, which is where the playwright went to school. Characters use local references such as "the cities" (referring to Minneapolis-St. Paul) and the small city of Albertville. The title reference, "orange flower water," is brought in somewhat awkwardly as Beth has a dream about Lilly, the child she and David will have together. The little girl spills orange flower water in the back seat of the car.

The final monologue by David is a bookend to Cathy's monologue in the first scene. It's sweet but a bit jarring after the intense dialogue of the middle scenes. David speaks to their small daughter Lilly about Christmas preparation, gifts, and cookie baking (including orange flower water). It's almost a happy ending.

~*~

Orange Flower Water plays through June 9 at the Raven Theatre Complex, 6157 N. Clark St.; performances are at 8pm Thursdays through Saturdays and 3:30pm Sundays. Tickets are $25 with student and senior discounts available and can be purchased online. For more information, call 773-338-2177.

 
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