Directed by James Yost
Starring Cyd Blakewell, Keith Neagle, Ina Strauss & Joseph Wiens
Produced by BareBones Theatre Group & Interrobang Theatre Project
Playing at Raven Theatre
This piece on the collapse of two marriages is beautifully acted.
“Everything actually has to happen, doesn’t it? You think in your mind things can happen without happening, but in the end, they always have to actually happen.” Or so says Beth, a Pine City housewife in Craig Wright’s 2002 Orange Flower Water, currently on view at Raven Theater. And though its tempting to dwell on how conveniently self-serving Beth’s position may be as she prepares to leave her husband for a different married man, her sense of not being in control of her own life is point that gets made on more than one occasion in this play—and in more than one way.
At the very least, Wright can’t bring himself to outright condemn the very people he’s so meticulously represented in their ugliest and darkest moments. Not entirely, at least. Sure, Beth and her illicit lover, David (Keith Neagle), aren’t exactly the best of people. David has a tendency to get lost in his self-delusions and make promises he can’t keep—like those he made to his wife, Cathy (Cyd Blakewell). And Beth is a passive-aggressive martyr who thinks merely being in an unhappy marriage to Brad (Joseph Wiens) for the past fifteen years is a sufficient enough excuse for her actions.
But Wright’s play isn’t about being punitive. Not really. And what’s strange about Orange Flower Water is the way the play’s always leaning forward to the birth of Beth and David’s daughter, Lily. The way Wright allows Lily’s birth to forgive in some way her parents for having caused so much pain and suffering to those they once loved. Or more broadly, the way something irrefutably good so often grows out of something irrefutably cruel.
And that’s what’s so rich about Orange Flower Water, here co-produced by Charlotte-transplant BareBones Theatre Group and Interrobang Theatre Project. For as bitter as James Yost’s direction can be at times, it’s just as often moving and strangely near to us. Keith Neagle, for instance, just as easily shows us David’s egomaniacal underbelly as he does his fervidly honest love for Beth. And Cyd Blakewell as David’s jilted wife Cathy evinces a woman so disconnected from the man she loves, she sadly doesn’t know how to fight for him anymore. Ina Strauss and Joseph Wiens as the other couple, Beth and Brad, have a more fiery dynamic than the highly cerebral David and Cathy. When Beth and Brad get upset, they scream and cry and call each other names. When David and Cathy fight, they do it mid-coitus (and onstage).
And though not every scene lands as effectively as the one before (having two marriages crash right before you on stage in under an hour and a half is bound to cause certain problems with pacing), this production hums well enough along as a series of powerfully realized moments, its strongly realized performances striking me as the principal draw here.
At the center of the play is a bed, gradually stripped bare as each scene successively passes one after the next until there’s little more than a naked mattress onstage. And by the end of Orange Flower Water, all present feel equally exposed in some critical way. And even if we’re not entirely willing to condemn its characters, we at last cannot fault them for being any less control of their lives than we are of our own.
Reviewed by Anthony J. Mangini
Reviewed Sunday, May 12th, 2013.
Running time is approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes with no intermission.
Orange Flower Water runs until June 9th, 2013. Raven Theatre is at 6157 N. Clark Street.