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"Love's Fire" 

Playwrights devise short plays based on Shakespeare sonnets

Wednesday, Feb 27 2002
Because Shakespeare gets most of his attention from the theater community, we often forget that he was a poet first, having penned a mother lode of sonnets about love, loss, and sex. The idea of "Love's Fire," first commissioned and performed in 1998 by the Acting Company, was to have seven prominent playwrights devise short plays based on seven of the sonnets, which were then presented together in one evening of theater. The show, which I saw in its initial run at the Public Theater in New York, was fun but clunky; despite the common theme, the pieces never meshed. But a new performance of the same set of plays by a small local company called La Vache Enragee Productions is a surprising delight. La Vache's version owes its success to fine acting and directing but also to some intelligent dramaturgical decisions: It cuts the two weakest pieces and reorders the remaining five. The condensation sharpens the set, resulting in a clever sequence of one-acts revealing the irony and idiocy of love. Among the best are Marsha Norman's poetic 140, which reveals a revolving door of faithlessness among five characters; Eric Bogosian's humorous Bitter Sauce, which finds a nice guy finishing last when he forgives his fiancée her blatant infidelity with a Harley-Davidson biker; and Tony Kushner's wonderful bundle of urban neuroses -- titled thrice as Terminating, or Lass Meine Schmerzen Nicht Verloren Sein, or Ambivalence -- which explores the confusingly intimate relationship between a gay man who hates anal sex (an obsessive Morris Naish) and his high-strung lesbian therapist (a hilarious Wendy Taylor). Plays by Ntozake Shange and John Guare, as well as a Tennessee Williams one-act, round out the bill. Providing the rare opportunity to sample six major contemporary playwrights in one sitting, "Love's Fire" is good theater and well worth the ticket price.

About The Author

Karen Macklin


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