“Brief Encounter” is satisfying quickie theater

The Guthrie’s latest production is a short 95-minutes, but its examination of love and marriage is vast.

The story's main characters engage in an extramarital emotional affair and learn about themselves.
PHOTO COURTESY KNEEHIGH THEATRE

The story’s main characters engage in an extramarital emotional affair and learn about themselves. PHOTO COURTESY KNEEHIGH THEATRE

John Sand

âÄúA Brief EncounterâÄù WHERE: Guthrie Theater, 818 S. Second St. WHEN: Feb. 11 âÄì April 3 TICKETS: $29 – $65 All over the world tonight, you can hear the sound of lovers in love. But what happens when they arenâÄôt in love with the one they married? This conundrum is the basis of the Guthrie TheaterâÄôs latest production, âÄúBrief Encounter,âÄù which is part poignant 1930s musical, part dry British sitcom. The production is based on Noël CowardâÄôs one-act play âÄúStill Life,âÄù which was adapted into a 1945 film, and unlike many contemporary plays, it is brief âÄî a mere 95 minutes, without intermission. Laura and Alec are two married individuals who begin an emotional affair wherein little skin is grazed. Their dramatic narrative occasionally breaks for smooth jazz intermissions and light rock âÄònâÄô roll, allowing viewers to keep their blood pressure in check. The story revolves mainly around a small café in the middle of a train station where the two lovers meet. The owner of the shop is involved in a raunchy affair with an official at the train station, while the young girl who works there explores her budding sexuality. âÄúItâÄôs almost the smallest story that you’ve ever heard,âÄù said adapter and director Emma Rice . âÄúItâÄôs a love letter to love, really, a wonderful chamber piece.âÄù The conception of the show is highly stylized, but it doesnâÄôt get trapped in its own periodicity. Though the play often slips into a 1940s cinema depiction of crashing waves as the entrance into a turbulent mind, the side characters provide a contemporary wit to keep the show from getting too heavy or contrived. Rice wrote the play using both the movie script and the original one-act. English playwright Coward gained popularity from his witty writing and romantic characters during World War II. âÄúEvery word is Noël [Coward]âÄôs, including [the lyrics to] âÄúMad About the BoyâÄù and âÄúRoom With a View,âÄù Rice said. âÄúI looked into his poetry and set them to music with my composer Stu Barker .âÄù The play also uses seamless integrations between black and white film and stage, with characters frequently disappearing âÄúintoâÄù the screen and back into the dull grindings of everyday ramblings. âÄú[âÄúBrief EncounterâÄù] brings the lovers story to the fore,âÄù said Hannah Yelland, who plays Laura . Yelland, who is recently engaged, said the situation and emotions evoked in âÄúBrief EncounterâÄù are very common. âÄúThe idea of having a love that canâÄôt be pursued or realized or is impossible in one way or another âĦ it happens quite often in life,âÄù she said. As Rice put it, âÄúItâÄôs the story of the secret emotional lives we lead, excavating the layers of the terrible trouble we get into.âÄù