“My deaf lesbian sister just seduced my boyfriend!”
That proclamation sounds like a headline for the National Enquirer, but in playwright Aditi Brennan Kapil’s Love Person, the engaging and challenging new play from Marin Theatre Company and the National New Play Network, those words are definitely no joke. Love Person (the literal American Sign Language translation of the word “lover”) is a play about love, language and the tricky art of translating one set of words into another. It employs ASL, Sanskrit poetry and text messaging, as Kapil explores the strengths and weaknesses of conversation in a multilingual, multi-technological world.
Love Person is meticulously designed so that, through projections, supertitles and onstage interpretation, we always know more or less exactly what the characters are trying to say. As result, the play ends up making supporting characters out of the languages each character uses to communicate. I’ve honestly never seen anything like it.
Victoria (Emily Morrison) has a demonstrated habit of falling for unavailable men, and may have done it again when she meets Ram (Janak Ramachandran), a visiting poet and Sanskrit expert who immediately regrets his one-night stand with the sexy but needy—and apparently fairly shallow—young woman. Vic’s slightly hostile deaf sister, Free (Mary C. Vreeland, above left), is the lover of Maggie (Cathleen Riddley, above right), a professor of poetry who is devoted to Free but has a habit of romanticizing her lover’s deafness, seeing ASL as a kind of dancing-poetry that transcends English. Free resents English, and has begun to resent Maggie’s love of the written word. .
Through an accident of timing, Free sends Ram a text message poking fun at this belief that translation can ever get at the soul of a different language. Believing the message to be from Vic, Ram is surprised to see a depth and wit he hadn’t noticed before. Just as Cyrano de Bergerac charmed Roxanne with his beautiful words, Ram, of course, ends up falling in love—with Vic, whom he believes he’s been chatting with all these weeks. Such circumstances cannot continue, of course.
Simply and effectively adapted, the production is designed by Eric E. Sinkkonen, with subtle but significant lighting design by Stephanie Buchner and a nice, nonintrusive musical score by Chris Houston, which brings a great deal of mood and tension to the show. The actors are all excellent, displaying shades of evolving character as they reveal the aching, loving, silly, inventive, forgiving and resilient souls that live and breathe beneath all those words.
Love Person runs Tuesday&–Sunday through May 18 at the Marin Theatre Company. Wednesday at 7:30pm; Thursday&–Saturday at 8pm; Sunday at 5pm. 397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley. $30&–$35. 415.388.5208.
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