REVIEW: Fruit Tree Backpack (Clove Productions)

The non-art of relationships

 

fruit tree backpack

   
Clove Productions presents
   
Fruit Tree Backpack
   
Written by Barrie Cole
Directed by Eric Ziegenhagen
at side project theatre, 1439 W. Jarvis (map)
through July 17th  |  tickets:  $12  |  more info

reviewed by Paige Listerud

Playwright Barrie Cole loves to play with words and conceptual themes like a child loves to play with Legos. In Fruit Tree Backpack, a tiny, taut and daffy trilogy, now onstage at side project theatre, her characters like to do the same. Clove Productions has teamed up an excellent cast and Eric Ziegenhagen’s simple direction keeps out of the way of Marisa Wegryn and Michael Kessler’s subtle and satisfying comic interaction.

“In the Middle of the Night” begins with a whacked out, out-of-the-blue project—or is it? It’s the midnight discovery of one’s partner/roommate wrapping an orange in packing tape and claiming its worthiness as a new and original piece of art. It’s the kind of thing that happens in the middle of the night—due to too much pot, too much time on one’s hands or too little sleep. When the partner declares it as a project worthy of repetition—wrapping oranges in packing tape and sending them to all her friends without explanation—then you know it’s either an idea that borders on artistic conceptual madness or is just, simply, mad.

“Intimacy” deals with a couple at the subtle heart of friction in their relationship. One believes the other has not been smoking for months, while the other reluctantly reveals, once on vacation, that he has been faking his abstinence from smoking all the while. Wegryn and Kessler successfully pull comedy from the situation for all its worth. That, or there are too many people out there who identify with this dilemma completely. But Cole’s writing quickly gets to the sulking heart of the matter. “Intimacy is such a burden, don’t you agree?” says one partner. But is the burden still worth it?

“Research” happily takes us to the netherworld of an ending relationship. I say happily because Cole’s humor never leaves deadened space in the relationship between these two characters and the cast’s teamwork to keep the scene light and resiliently firm and unflagging. One character just wants to be friends, but the other doesn’t know what that “friendship” is, what its boundaries will be, or what kind of support it will give for the future. One just wants to let it play out on its own and the other needs something graspable or definable. This is the charm of Cole’s work: even when uncertainty threatens to bring misery or instability, her characters still try to retain some kind of upper hand through the use of language. It’s inventive and loaded with emotional meaning, yet never overplayed by the actors. They are just two people breaking up, that’s all and, for all that, the world is not ending for them or for us.

      
      
Rating: ★★★
   
   

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