By Michael Weller
Directed by Joe Jahraus
At Profiles Theatre, Chicago
The kitchen battlefield erupts into passive-aggressive marriage ritual
Profiles Theatre loves to do edgy and raw relationship dramas and their latest is Michael Weller’s 2008 two-hander, Fifty Words – an exercise in hurt-your-spouse relationship dynamics. The show is a scream-and-holler affair that moves from being sensual seduction to brutal verbal and physical love making that moves into hurtful physicality. It depicts the deep seeded resentments that a marriage can encounter when the bond that unites two people is shallow.
We meet Adam (Darrell W. Cox) and his wife Jan (Katherine Keberlein) as they realize that their son 9 year old son Greg is away at a sleepover and they now have their Brooklyn home to themselves. Adam tries hard to seduce his busy with her business wife with a candlelight dinner with strong sexual innuendos. Jan reacts with coldness. The battle slowly heats up as the two struggle through a series of passive-aggressive attacks that move back and forth from sweetness to verbal assaults from passionate embraces to stinging slaps.
Essentially both Adam and Jan hate and love each other as their marriage is ruled by Adam’s long business trips and Jan’s attention to her online business. Add the 9 year old’s eccentric school behavior and these two have a complicated family life. Jan’s suspicions of Adam are fueled by his overly aggressive passion the night before he leaves on another ‘business’ trip. The tension and suspense build as the dinner erupts into a series of attacks that prove that only someone who knows and loves you can possibly hurt you so deeply. The show has loads of suspense as the up-and-down journey of revelation, rancor and revenge leads to some humor and lots of passionate foreplay. Will their codependency overcome their love-hate actions? Will the marriage survive? And will their deep sexual needs necessitate staying together? Will they find a way toward a truce? You be the judge.
I must report that usually the acting is visceral, honest and passionate in a Profiles show but in Fifty Words I found both Darrel W. Cox and Katherine Keberlein racing so fast through some verbiage that both flubbed several lines thereby diminishing the impact of several moments. I also found Keberline to be too young to effectively play a middle aged wife. Lastly, I found both characters to be weak, narcissistic, selfish and unsympathetic. With all the passive-aggressive behavior the show played like a hot-cold struggle that became tedious from too many mood shifts. We become numb to them and we can’t understand why she tolerates him and why he wants to stay with someone with revengeful tendencies? This is a in-your-face sexually explicit show that some may find disturbing. I found it tedious. Profiles Theatre needs to find fresher themes explore.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: May 19, 2011
At Profile Theatre, 4147 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL, call 773-549-1815, tickets $35 – $40, Thursdays & Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 5 & 8 pm, Sundays at 7 pm, running time is 90 minutes without intermission, through June 26, 2011