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Theater Review (NYC): Drunk Enough to Say I Love You?

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Believe me when I tell you, there will be people calling the box office at the Public to whine about paying full price for this play that is 45 minutes in length. It will come out to a little over $1 per minute, which is more than they think they should pay. But it is substantially less than they shell out for sitting on a couch much like the one on stage and talking to a shrink about their lives and their relationships. So, for my money, I’d say this was a bargain.

In this short, brilliant play we get to watch a relationship glimmer, blossom, bloom, slip, stagger, and collapse into bits of shabby rags. And if this play were one minute longer your head would explode.

Caryl Churchill’s writing drops like a sinker on the end of a fishing line. She is direct and determined. It’s a journey you could refuse if someone gave you a heads up. But Churchill doesn’t give us a chance to refuse. From the minute the lights come up and the first word is spoken, you are strapped into your seat in a permanent way.

The night I was there people were sighing audibly, because this play gets inside you. And, yes, people will say it’s all about The United States, or rather George Bush, seducing and dominating. But if that were all, we would be able to keep our distance. We could approach the play logically, philosophically, with a sort of “let’s discuss this over dinner” attitude. Well, we can’t do that here, because this is about seduction and domination on an intimate level. There are just two men (but it could easily be performed by two women, or a male-female pair where the character assignments are interchangeable) and one couch that is shown near, far, at eye level, and raised up high. “Look at it this way. Now, look at it this way. Now see this,” Churchill is saying. And we do.

Hearts are bared, hopes raised, dreams dared, then dashed, then ransacked. How many of us have been in such a relationship – as aggressor or defender? How many of us are still? It is to that wounded, and perhaps wiser, part of ourselves that we journey while we watch this play. Churchill takes us into the jungle of our own relationships and tells us, “This is that of which the world is made. Look to yourselves. Look to ourselves. We are the stuff on which all matter depends.”

A message hard won.

Drunk Enough to Say I Love You?

By Caryl Churchill; directed by James Macdonald

WITH: Scott Cohen (Sam) and Samuel West (Guy).

Sets by Eugene Lee; costumes by Susan Hilferty; lighting by Peter Mumford; sound by Daniel Erdberg; music by Matthew Herbert

Presented by the Royal Court Theater and the Public Theater, Oskar Eustis, artistic director; Mara Manus, executive director. At the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street, at Astor Place, NYC; (212) 967-7555. Through April 6. Running time: 45 minutes.

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