DatesRepeats Jul 26-28, & Aug 4
“I met you, and I screamed.” That’s the title of actor/director Justin Locklear’s playwriting debut, and also a line from the beginning of the show, when dancer Megan (Danielle Georgiou, a dancer who is, unfortunately, not also an actress) is monologuing about how she felt when she met university student Grace (Cassie Bann, thankfully, an actress). It’s real love, and I guess we can tell because she’s screaming.
There was an awful lot of shouting in this production, mostly as a way for the non-actors to convey their emotions. But ignore the flowery metaphoric language like “hair soft as flowers,” and the fact that an actual character tells another character not to “rebuke” her, and the whole thing is classic girl-meet-girl, complete with a cutesily familiar private lover language that, among other things, adds an “s” onto every word. They’re in love, but they’re also angst-prone drama queens who’ve taken that Quarterflesh song too seriously—part of this annoying tribe of people who think because they’ve been hurt before, it means the hurt is forever, and the best thing to do is shut people out entirely. I wouldn’t have a problem with this if it wasn’t always such a bald-faced lie.
There must be real conflict, however, so enter Megan’s overprotective mother, Bren (played by Cindee Mayfield-Dobbs, excellent in Contemporary Theatre’s Night of the Iguana and doing her best with the material here). Bren does not like the gays (or at least, in more typically hypocritical fashion, she doesn’t like the idea of her daughter being one). Therefore, when she finds out her daughter is sleeping with a woman, she is understandably put out. Lord. This is flimsy, even for the most preposterous of romantic comedies. But wait. There’s local musician Stefan Gonzalez playing the xylophone, and now Georgiou is going to intercut this scene with some modern dance.
Makes sense, since I Met You and I Screamed is billed as an interdisciplinary piece that blends “original live music, modern dance, photography, and art” and explores the complexities of human relationships. But what I experienced when it opened at the Bath House Cultural Center on Saturday night as part of the annual Festival of Independent Theatres was more like a modern experimental theater (experimental anything really) checklist.
Same sex smooching? Check. Live music, played on stage? Check. Flickery slides of close-up photos of a pretty girl, meant to imitate the way we remember the features of someone we love? Check. Manages to be an affecting piece of writing in spite of all the window dressing? Not so much. I’m grateful that that Locklear eschewed the “everyone is naked” and the “total nonsense dialogue” boxes, but the live music and a bunch of SAT words can’t quite overcome the weaknesses of the basic plot, despite a few moments that seem to acknowledge how commonplace it is. But we are all the sun in our sky, are we not? We either believe ourselves more or less interesting than others perceive us, but we persist at the center.
Still, the result is a play that’s uneven, unwieldy, and oddly bland for something with so much going on on stage. Sure, the characters are using art to express their inner angst—of course they are, and of course they can. They’re all artistic, resourceful, attractive, quirky people. Clichés are so often forgivable and enjoyable when there’s some small twist, such as Mitchell Parrack’s portrayal of Grace’s somewhat disgruntled, self-aware therapist. Parrack was a mean-but-underused Charles Manson in Ochre House’s Mean, if you’ll remember, and he’s the highlight here. He delivers a wonderful monologue towards the end, wavering between whether he’s boring, or his patients are boring, or both.