I just got back from BedPlay, the latest production of FaultLine Theater, and I’m once again happy I went. FaultLine is a young company, formed in 2012 and helmed artistically by Cole Ferraiuolo, and it specializes in putting out new work at a breakneck speed: a production a month, sometimes only running for a few days apiece. Besides their prolific output, one of the most impressive aspects of the FaultLine group is their eagerness to tackle variable subject material and formats without any hint that they’re experimenting or feeling out of their depth. I last saw them put on a medium-size musical with changing sets (“Tinderella”), and now they’re right back doing a two-woman show with just a bed and some smoke for 90 minutes.
Speaking of the bed, that piece-of-furniture-cum-stage was undoubtedly the centerpiece and pivotal metaphor of BedPlay. Now debuting on the west coast, BedPlay was written by Lizi Latimer and is currently directed by Emily Brown. It features two women of vague-but-likely-young age standing, lying, fighting, loving, fighting, exploring, and moving on…or not…on top of one shared bed as a bully pulpit, arena, microcosm, and sacred space. Time is a device in the play and not a necessity; when temporality suits rhetoric, the audience is given snippets of a timeline, but at most points, the urgency of emotion and an ill-defined relationship dominate and relegate all calendars and watches to a forgotten drawer. As the characters say at one point, nearly verbatim, “Two months? Two weeks. Two weeks? Two weeks officially. Two years. Two years?! Two seconds!” In my experience, memorable relationships are honestly that hard to pin down and depend entirely on the lens through which one wants to see them. The lens, in turn, depending on how angry or charitable you are feeling, how nostalgic or how sick.
This particular staging of BedPlay succeeds in many small ways. Not insignificantly, the set is pitch-perfect for the bedroom of a young romantic, which is someone who is best defined as a young person of near-any stripe or a romantic of near-any age. Most importantly, the bed dominates 90% of the room, which is accurate for any room in which young or otherwise dumb love has ever occurred. Next, there are two tiny, crappy nightstands on either side of the bed: one holding wine and cigarettes (herbal, we are told before the show), and the other featuring the exact type of crappy, circular boombox that makes Target back-to-school display planners salivate. The actors’ interaction with the boombox, as expected, segues effortlessly with the house music, another fact that seems true to life for a story like this. Clothes are strewn on the floor, never to take part in the story, never to be picked up, never to be remembered or washed. Books inhabit a nightstand level below the wine, never to be read, or maybe never to be read again; they could be jackets filled with moths, but the titles are correct. And finally, one very nice comforter sits lazily atop no flat sheet. Who has time for a flat sheet?
In this protected nest of a space, the two leading women, and only people, tear each other apart. It is clear that they were once a couple, and it is clear that there was never a right time for either one to meet the parents, but the rest is guesswork. They pass through each other like waves, occasionally summing unexpectedly into perfect synchronicity of desire, intertwining fingers on a silent glacier without need of anybody or anything else, only to immediately lose stability and ask for the check, as the audience is throttled off the glacier into a nameless cafe and then headlong back into the familiar bed and an angry, tense argument and the immediate close of the scene.
The chapters dovetail like this, one after the other, and the characters slowly expose their relationship to you. Like any real relationship, it is simultaneously deep and trite and, above all, inaccessible and tedious to an outsider. However, after an hour or so, you are no longer an outsider. You never learn the names of the characters played well by Paige Mayes and Lauren Giebitz, but you never notice that, either. Through a veiled and piecemeal storytelling, you slowly assemble the basic ground rules of the relationship before you, and you become invested in its minutiae and its outcome. When you are good and hooked, the payoff hit comes, and it is well-timed and visible from a distance.
The only foibles of the production are brief overindulgences in playwriting tropes: characters occasionally over-repeat lines, like a drama class exercise on the effect of inflection, too many times for the suspension of disbelief, or they link their actions too closely to their thoughts, bludgeoning the audience with metaphor as they hop on the bed child-like while childishly, and unmistakably, avoiding the very adult topic of why somebody can’t meet your parents. These false steps are easily forgivable, though, and they are likely defensible in the overall aim of portraying a flawed love. It’s not perfect; that’s the point, so maybe it’s the intent that some imperfections are both apparent and grating.
My favorite scene involved the herbal cigarettes. Both characters relaxed and stripped off their armor for a brief moment. In the background emerged the quiet sounds of rain on an apartment, replaying a favorite day in the shared memory of the duo. The very real wine was poured into the very real glasses, and the very real cigarettes wafted off very real smoke, trailing beautifully under the stage lights. The characters drank and talked dreamily and ashed into the glasses and enjoyed each other’s company, and nothing in that moment was fake, and nothing in that moment didn’t feel like day-to-day love and the stuff of reality.
Remaining performances of BedPlay run through the first two weeks of September at PianoFight at 144 Taylor Street in San Francisco (tickets):
Friday, 9/4 @ 9pm
Saturday, 9/5 @ 9pm
Thursday, 9/10 @ 7pm
Friday, 9/11 @ 9pm
Saturday, 9/12 @ 7pm