Reviewed by Michael J. Opperman
Mixed Blood's Love Person is startling and evocative. But when the play started, I was skeptical. Several flat panel television screens hung above the stage. A man was reading a poem in Sanskrit, while what I presumed to be the original written Sanskrit trailed across the screens in lovely impenetrable script. Three women listened with varying attentiveness (two conversing in ASL) as techno music vibrated softly in the background. At first blush, the play seemed an ambitious and well-meaning mess.
But, after an unsteady but promising first scene, the play developed into a moving, nuanced and provocative exploration of language, intimacy and the real world landscape of relationships. In addition to Sanskrit characters, the flat screens also provided translations of conversations in ASL and transcripts of late night email conversations. With a deft touch, Aditi Brennan Kapil's play -- through Risa Brainin's direction -- covers the shiny obliviousness of first attraction, filial jealousy, erosion of intimacy, and connections and estrangements that occur through language.
Maggie (Erin McGovern) and Free (Alexandria Wailes) are credible and affecting as the lesbian couple evaluating a long-term relationship constructed with and around language. Free communicates entirely through ASL and wages a passive-aggressive war against English, while Maggie - who is not deaf - attempts to integrate the hearing world into her life with Free. The emotional distance pressing on their relationship causes Free to engage in an emotional affair via email with her sister Vic's (Jennifer Maren) new lover Ram (Rajesh Bose). Ram believes his email paramour to be the same person with whom he's sleeping. Where the play could be agitprop, it is personal. Where it could devolve into melodrama, it is evenhanded and considerate. Where it could be funny and moving and complex, it is. Nayna Ramey, Scenic and Projections Designer, and Michael Klaers, Lighting and Projections Designer), make wonderful use of the stage, using the screens and furniture to shift fluidly between cafˇ and multiple private apartments. There are some physical cues and direction that stumbled slightly, but I'm sure these will be ironed out as the production continues. Love Person is a "rolling world premiere," supported by the National New Play Network and will make its debut in April in California and in Indianapolis in July. I recommend you catch it now before it wends it way out of our city.