A wise friend tells me that a satisfying life is a series of small moments. David Schulner’s An Infinite Ache is all of that—satisfying, and a series of small moments.
At eight o’clock Saturday night, as the audience settles into the 60-seat Gallery at Access Theatre in TriBeCa, Hope (Nancy Sun) and Charles (Eric Kuehnemann) begin a relationship that spans fifty years. After a disappointing first date these twenty-somethings find themselves in his grim studio apartment. She is aloof, one eye on the exit. He is both too eager to please and certain he won’t.
There is a remarkable athleticism at work in David Schulner’s script. He asks the two to struggle through the early and tentative commitments of young love, the pedestrian who-takes-out-the-garbage explosions, the unintended pregnancy, the unrealized dreams, profound loss, enormous self-deception—well, life really—in what seems a barely adequate ninety minutes. It is at once exhausting and compelling.
The script is the star here, well paced, rich in small signals. We know she’s moved in with him watching her add thin rugs and tiny plants to Jason Lee Courson’s bare bed of a set. We know they are aged when they bicker about his hearing-aid and toupee.
Director Joshua Warr teases out subtle performances from Sun and Kuehnemann. They are meant to age through a lifetime, endure loss, know rage and rejection, joy, and birth and death. These young actors change their gaits and voices suggesting age with some delicacy. Still, there is an exhausting quality to it. Neither actor leaves the stage for more than a minute. The tension is palpable through most of the play.
Timothy Meola’s lighting is lean and appropriate. The highlight here is one entire scene that has Hope and Charles in bed, in the dark. As each wakes the other with a question, or an apology, or a need, the bedside light of the speaker goes on and quickly off. Years pass in minutes in these exchanges.
“An Infinite Ache” tricked tears from some in the audience which I found surprising as I felt a certain remoteness throughout. An Infinite Acheoffers more an intriguing dynamic to witness than an emotionally engaging experience.
There is laughter, born more of recognition than comedy. One example: Hope and Charles, parents now, lay across the bed, enduring the storms of their off-stage adolescent daughter. They wonder aloud if it is normal to hate one’s own child.
“An Infinite Ache,” its New York debut funded by a Kickstarter campaign, is at the Access Theater, 390 Broadway, through November 22, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm. There is an additional performance on November 12th at 2pm. Tickets are available online at www.InfiniteAche.com and at the theater.