Love in the time of lunacy

Amy Danielson

Have you met women who get so desperate to meet a good man that they become irrational, seething wretches? Now you have, in the character of Libby in The Maiden’s Prayer, currently playing at the Directors Theater. Written by Nicky Silver and directed by Matt Sciple, the play details a small group of friends who struggle to understand the complexities of loveñwith all its attendant lunacy and weirdness.

Sisters Libby and Cynthia (Stacia Kramer and Carolyn Pool) both desperately want fulfillment in their lives. Libby, the younger and brasher of the two, can’t keep a job and drinks to anesthetize herself. She harbors a very public crush on her sister’s husband, Taylor (Steve Sweere), who she met in an alcoholic’s support group. Any chance she gets, she announces her thwarted desires, and then bursts into tears.

All three share a befuddled mutual friend named Paul (played by Edwin Strout), a promiscuous gay man who avoids relationships and fulfills his voids in life through sex. In one of the play’s daffiest moments, Paul picks up an almost maniacally amiable Bloomingdale’s clerk named Andrew (Dale Pfeilsticker) who attaches himself to Paul and refuses to let go.

At times, this play is hilariousñespecially where Andrew is involved. He won’t leave Paul’s apartment, sleeping in the bathtub, remaining even after Paul moves out, providing sardonic commentary on the link between love and obsession. He’s charming, but clearly more than a little crazy: In conversation, he recounts how he once vented his rage by destroying the crystal inventory at Bloomingdale’s in a feigned seizure.

At other times, the play is dramaticñoften to excess. Cynthia and Taylor fight as their marriage sours, and their words to each other are both pointed and pathetic. They share a terrible lossña miscarriage, and with it the loss of the unplanned pregnancy that instigated their marriage. Their arguments are gut-tightening, unsolvable and ultimately hopeless.

Stacia Kramer makes a believable Libbyñimportant, as so many of Libby’s adventures are unbelievable, including an accidental slide into the world of prostitution. Libby confesses this over drinks with Paul, and admits that it may well be her best career choice, and the shameful look in Kramer’s eyes called to mind unpleasant memories of my own of an old friend who was always down on her luck and looking for an easy solution to her problems.

Even during the tense scenes, however, there are moments of levity. Paul, in a nerve-racking conversation with Libby, offers her an ashtray and she just flicks the ash in its general direction. This gesture, a half-hearted and ultimately futile attempt at propriety, is not in the script, but it sums Libby up beautifullyñand, further, offers an unhappy metaphor for the play. Each of these characters gesture toward love and commitment, but do so with such little hope and effort that their gestures spill to the floor and scatter with the wind.

 

The Maiden’s Prayer plays through November 10 at the Acadia Cafe and Cabaret Theater, (612) 874-8800.