“Quake A Love Story” takes place in a storage closet. A formerly married couple has to face what most of us would rather avoid even under the best of circumstances, going through their stuff. The closet is filled with the things they did and didn’t do as individuals and as a couple. The woman, Hannah, played by Kelly Kilgore, screams at her ex, Joe, played by Justin Baldwin. She’s on a roll, and he’s dragging his feet. Each stored object has a story he wants to explore with her. He defends himself or retreats by being oblivious to her and the task at hand. We immediately see why she wanted out and that he still loves her. He’s still jealous of whom she might be with and he’s still the same distracted man she left. They’re doing the final, rip-down-the-middle division of who gets what, when their recycled fights are interrupted by an earthquake.

The earthquake strikes just after they have moved anything that might have helped them. There’s something perfect about that because we have all forgotten what we need most and locked the keys in the car (etc.). Without rations or water the past gets a new context, as the present challenges bring the couple closer. Through trial and error they help and hold each other as things get grimmer. I’m sucked in; I want them to survive. But it’s a Fringe show not a Hallmark card, they could die! They sing and fight their way to a new place in their relationship.

The chemistry, between Kelly Kilgore and Justin Baldwin is palpable; they’re good actors and their relationship and dialogue is well written by the playwright Tylor Olsen. The director, Trevin Cooper, steers them well; their progression into sad circumstances is well timed and real. The lighting by James Lees was simple and perfect, it added another layer of reality and tension to the story; the whole time I worried if and when it would go out completely.

The overall script by Tyler Olsen is difficult to take. In the beginning it’s hard because Hannah screams at her husband Joe, and then the reality of their predicament is depressing. Between hurricane Sandy and fracking I don’t feel this is a made up circumstance. I squirmed thinking about how hard it would be to be that thirsty, trapped and hungry. The play’s gloom is broken up by a cumulative narrative about earthquakes. Like an infomercial only shorter and more interesting.

Each mini-lesson builds on the last, adding to the metaphor of change as necessary and inevitable. One fact I can’t resist telling is that the largest earthquake shook the whole earth on its axis – what an incredible image.

They fall back into the relationship they once had and come up newly connected; the progression of their re-newed closeness is well written. Justin Baldwin’s character seizes his second chance with Hannah by growing up and being less oblivious. Hannah is no longer screaming, maybe because even as they are fading from thirst and hunger he is more in sync with her needs. I felt that the play needed the PS announcements as a break from the gloom of their worsening circumstances. But some of the mini-lessons were sadder than where their own story was headed.

For me the earthquake as metaphor was a bit sticky and here’s why: A play sits within its time and no director or set of actors is arguably responsible to reflect the events and beliefs of that time. Art will cease to be interesting if it follows those or any other rules. That being said, the smiling descriptions about the earth’s natural destructive changes reminded me too much of the ones we humans are causing.

Who were they when these two appealing actors faced the audience to tell us that change was inevitable? Were they Hanna and Joe years later having survived their ordeal? Were they smiling to say it’s just nature’s way? Is the subtext that we have nothing to do with it? I don’t think so. I didn’t mind the earthquake as symbol-of-change cliché, if it even is one. Change often comes from destruction, it’s loud and difficult. If Einstein was right that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”, maybe the only way change happens is when circumstances shake us out of our old ways.

Go watch two actors hash it out and re-love each other, bring a water bottle and make sure you eat beforehand.

QUAKE A Love Story by Tyler Olsen, Directed by Trevin Cooper, Stage Manager Rachel Moll, ACR Stefanie Wagner, Lighting by James Lees Cast: Kelly Kilgore and Justin Baldwin quakeplay
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