Theatre ReviewsTom Williams

Orange Flower Water

By Craig Wright

orange flower water by wright back stage theatre

Directed by Jessica Hitchinson

Produced by Back Stage Theatre Company

At Chopin Studio Theatre

Quirky comic drama about adultery well performed

Back Stage Theatre, now in their 10th season, usually find stage worthy scripts that they cast and stage quite professionally. Their latest gem is Craig Wright’s comic drama, Orange Flower Water. The set (designed by Brandon Wardell and Jessica Kuehnau) consists of a large double bed mounted center stage on a revolving platform moved by the cast at the end of each scene. There are four chairs on each point of the square stage. The action takes place mostly on the bed between one of the two couples.

Orange Flower Waterby craig wright

The press notes state: “After years of maintaining a close, platonic friendship, David (Jason Huysman) and Beth (Shelly Nixon) begin an inescapable love-affair with heartbreaking consequences. Through a series of theatrical, voyeuristic scenes which all take place on or around a single bed, we see the painfully intense unraveling of both troubled marriages and, eventually, the construction of a very fragile but authentic new beginning for everyone concerned. Written by one of the most promising young playwrights of this generation, Craig Wright’s Orange Flower Water is an unsparing but ultimately hopeful examination of the unremitting need that humans beings have for one another.”

Orange Flower Waterby craig wright

We witness the crude, often brutal husband, Brad (Tony Bozzuto) whose marriage to Beth never was a happy one for her yet Brad was content because he was in control. He does love Beth and he senses she hates him.  There is much more to Wright’s subtle script than merely another adultery drama. There four characters are living disappointing and loveless lives. Their selfishness and unwillingness to deal with their dead-end marriages makes them immature and hedonistic.

Wright has some funny moments as the bed and sexual needs triumph over family obligations and loyalty. While I challenge some of the actions Wright has his couples do, I very much appreciate the expert work from all four actors. From Tony Bozzuto’s rage to Jason Huysman’s wimpy nerd to Shelly Nixon’s calmly cold behavior to Maggie Kettering’s sexual aggressiveness–you’d be hard pressed to find better acting. This play was an ensemble triumph.

This 75 minute one act is a often funny and poignant look at the ruination of midlife, decade and a half marriages. Wright leaves hope as a new baby symbolizes another try at happiness for two of the couples. I found little empathy for there characters as it never occurs to any of the four that they should try to reconcile for the sake of the children. Why not at least try? I guess the sexual needs are tantamount. The performances here are quite good. Orange Flower Water is fine date night fare.


Tom Williams

At Chopin Theatre Studio Theatre, 1543 W. Division Street, Chicago, IL, call 800-838-3006, tickets $20 – $18 for seniors, group and student rate available, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 75 minutes without intermission, through March 27, 2010

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