Having seen every play ever written, I confess to a certain uneasiness when a local theater company presents the Pittsburgh premiere of a 20-year-old work. If something takes that long to reach my bloodshot eyes, there's probably a reason ... and usually the reason is that the play sucks.
But that is absolutely not the case with Michael Cristofer's dramatic comedy Breaking Up, presented by No Name Players. Cristofer's script is a sharply observed, cleverly designed and efficiently written play about a man and woman falling in and out of love.
And that might be the reason this play hasn't appeared in Pittsburgh before, and why it didn't make a bigger splash nationally: It's about a man and woman falling in and out of love. And you know, there have been one or two other plays written on the subject during the past, oh, say, 4,000 years.
The play opens with a brief falling-in-love section, as Alice and Sam -- in interwoven monologues -- give us the backstory of their meeting and courtship. And with the heartfelt promise of eternal devotion still hovering the air, we smash-cut to Alice and Sam, two years later, ending the relationship. The bulk of Breaking Up is the coda of the affair. Though split up, they find it difficult to stay away ... leading to a couple of alcohol-fueled phone calls and a disastrous reconciliation attempt. And then, finally, each moves past the other.
Cristofer has written an intelligent play about well-intentioned people in an achingly human situation, and about the process by which they learn that love, as great as it can be, isn't nearly enough. It may not be a groundbreaking message, but Cristofer has the theatrical chops to make it seem fresh.
The danger of a play like this is how actor-y it could be. But director Don DiGiulio wisely keeps the blissfully cast Tressa Glover and Jody O'Donnell rooted in the everyday-ness of the story. There's a very comfortable quality to this production: real life happening in front of us rather than a rehearsed "reality" full of actor's tricks and insincere sincerity.
While I do wonder why -- even 20 years ago -- somebody would have gone to the trouble of writing a boy-loves-girl play, there's no question that Cristofer and No Name have come up with a very handsome version of it.
Breaking Up continues through Sun., Dec. 19. No Name Players at Bricolage, 937 Liberty Ave., Downtown. 412-207-7111 or www.nonameplayers.org
- Love on the rocks: Tressa Glover and Jody O'Donnell in No Name Players' Breaking Up.