by Tulis McCall

With this production of “I Love You So Much I Could Die” by Mona Pirnot, Lucas Hnath has take a page out of Ivo Van Hove‘s playbook – something he was already leaning toward.  This is a theatrical presentation, not, in my opinion, a play.  It is a story, true.  It is the actual story of Ms. Pirnot and her now husband (Hnath) and how they supported one another through horrific events during the Pandemic.  According to the program, as Ms. Pirnot began to develop the pieces that are connected here, they both sat in their one bedroom, he on the bed and she on a desk chair facing the wall with her back to him.  Not certain how or why the setup was this way – perhaps the combined intimacy and difficulty of their circumstances was cause.  In any case, when they moved on to connecting the pieces and creating music to help frame the entirety, this configuration stayed the same.  Except we are the ones facing Ms. Pirnot’s back.  In addition, the stories are prerecorded using a text-to-speech tool, and its “voice” comes out of a downstage speaker.

Ms. Pirnot sings 4 or 5 songs, each amplified differently, almost as if they were daring us to doubt our attention to this detail. In between, the stories are told by the text-to-speech gizmo.  The gizmo is facing us and we anthropomorphize it as time passes. While the gizmo is speaking,  Pirnot is facing upstage.  I have no idea what else she was doing.  Her back does not speak volumes.

I must compliment the audience here.  While I was doing a slow burn, they were actually involved.  They laughed at all the right times.  At the conclusion of the piece several of them stood up to applaud.  I concluded that audiences are patient, they are kind, and they are forgiving.

Me?  Not so much.

Pirnot’s story was heartbreaking and compelling.  The decision to relieve her of the responsibility of facing the audience and telling the story herself is odd in the extreme.  We come away talking about that decision rather than Pirnot’s writing or storytelling skills.  Therefore we are left unconnected to the tale.  Ergo the entire event falls into the “Why bother?” category.  This production feels like a cousin of “Dana H” – also created by Hnath.  This was the story of his mother who was held in captivity for several years without Hnath knowing it.  Her voice was recorded and the words mouthed and performed by Deirdre O’Connell.  Performed would be the operative word here – and O’Connell was so intriguing that she won her first Tony after the production moved uptown.

In this production Pirnot was not given a chance to perform.  So I was not given  change to respond or engage.  She did get a chance to turn out one light.  I suppose that’s something.

Spend your pennies on a hot fudge Sundae instead.  At least it will entertain your tastebuds,

“I Love You So Much I Could Die” by Mona Pirnot, directed by Lucas Hnath directs.

Scenic design by Mimi Lien, costume design by Enver Chakartash, lighting design by Oona Curley, sound design by Mikhail Fiksel & Noel Nichols, and music direction by Will Butler.

At New York Theatre Workshop though March 9.  Tickets HERE.