“I. Love. Nuts.”
With these words, the Forward Theater Company let us know that they won’t be shoving all the same old cliches down our throats (for the most part) in this, their homage to love in all its variant forms: “The Love That Changed My Life.”
The show had three performances this weekend at the Overture Center’s Promenade Hall. It was the first of the Forward Theater’s Monologue Festival, an event for which they accepted submissions from around the world, and showcased local acting and directing talent in the performance of the 15 best pieces.
The monologues each ran for under ten minutes, and dealt with themes ranging from a woman’s love for yoga to a boy’s infatuation with a grizzly bear. With no guidance besides the festival’s theme (“The Love That Changed My Life”) each writer was able to take their monologue in just about any imaginable direction. The actors, both professional and amateur, brought an even greater diversity to the 15 pieces.
It was the less likely of stories, or the less usual of monologues, that really shined above the rest. In “The Nuts That Changed My Life,” Michael Herold’s animated depiction of the New Yorker who falls in love with a woman because of her home-roasted nuts is simply brilliant, and utterly convincing.
Marcella Kearns and Donovon Armbruster act with a sort of devastating enthusiasm in playwright Christopher Durang’s two-part monologue story arc about frustration, insecurity and Hobbit-centric romance.
In “An Evening with Jon Jones” (written by David Schanker, the playwright to whose memory the festival is dedicated), Tom Hensen tells with misleading bombast of his terminal, misused love from years before.
Where the production felt weakest was in its several trying attempts to get a little too sentimental. It was in the more conventionally heartbreaking and romantic pieces that one felt less involved, less convinced by the presentation. At times it almost felt as though these pieces were included out of some misplaced sense of obligation to the theme’s age-old associations.
“Autumn Sky Blue,” featuring Stephanie Monday as a chemistry teacher whose love of art paradoxically leads her to a career in science, transforms from funny condescension to an unconvincing discourse on what seems to be more of a misunderstanding of art, rather than art itself.
“Certainty,” the shows closer, attempts to end the festival on a happy note, with a celebration of romantic spontaneity that comes off as a cliched recap of modern romantic comedies.
That said, the festival, on the whole, works very well for what it is meant to be.
It is the festival’s ability to deftly maneuver within the tragicomic bill of fare that makes the production interesting and highly watchable. Although it may appear to be a theatrical manifestation of our contemporary attention-deficit demand for short displays of high energy and rapid transitions, “The Love That Changed My Life” provides its viewer with terribly likable depictions of characters with great depth, made all the more impressive by the tiny span of face time which the performers had to do so.