From the mind of young Canadian actor/director/writer Veronika Gribanova comes the uproariously funny LOVER LOVER. Directed by Derek Nicoletto at The Duplex in New York City, it was well worth the ten dollars and two drink minimum. Now, one might say that a two drink minimum could make just about anything at least a little funnier; I assure you that LOVER LOVER doesn’t need the help. Its first iteration was a sold out run at Toronto Fringe, where Gribanova herself directed it. This time around, she’s in the thick of things as Marina alongside Maribel Martinez’ Ana and Carter Horton’s Mark, leaving the rest up to Nicoletto and producer Berenice Odriozola.
This is Gribanova’s first time out as a writer, and the changes made from the Toronto run (in particular the addition of Ana) show us that she’s not afraid to mess with something that works in order to create something brilliant. I secured what was probably one of the best seats in the house, downed a couple of drinks, and settled in for what I figured was going to be an interesting ride. I wasn’t wrong. The three kept me mesmerized the whole time, and I’m sorry to say that my laughter may have thrown some of the other audience members’ nights.
The play revolves around two couples made up of three people; Ana and Mark, and Ana and Marina. Ana stands up onstage, relating the story of how Marina and Mark first met to us as it unfolds literally in our midst. Carter shows us a Mark who is unsure of what to do with himself on meeting Marina. He doesn’t seem to know what he expected, or even what really brought him here. Gribanova, as Marina, is obviously uncomfortable with the situation, and the night unfolds from there. They argue about Ana, they drink, they commiserate, and Martinez’ Ana keeps putting up pieces of cardboard on a clothesline, listing the recurring or significant themes that are being touched on.
This isn’t the kind of play you want to see if you’re looking for kitsch or cliché. What happens is unexpected to everyone involved; even the actors seemed surprised at what was happening between them at times. What you will see here is three people who are deeply hurt, who don’t think they deserve more than what life has given them, and whose love for someone who loves differently from them is tearing them apart.
Horton toes a line between charming and creepy in this play; his character’s actions have benign intent toward Marina and Ana but he does some genuinely weird stuff over the course of the show. Fortunately, he balances his frantic energy with a mellow voice and some genuine kindness. Marina (Gribanova) doesn’t try to pretend that she thinks what Mark does is normal, actively taking opportunities to call him out on his oddness and on his naïve take on life and love. Ana, meanwhile, just has to look on in disbelief as events play out before her as she relives the memory. Gribanova sums up the difference between the two people she writes by summing up the stories of how they met their mutual girlfriend; Mark brought her flowers to ask her out the first time, while Marina and Ana just happened to both swipe right on Tinder.
A lot of people might come to the conclusion that one or more of the three is a bad person based on their actions as described in the play. Ana is casually (perhaps even callously) polyamorous; she announces that she is seeing other people rather than actually having a conversation about it. Marina is aggressive, kind of mean, sometimes judgmental, and treats Mark like a bit of an idiot. Mark is… well, creepy, as I mentioned before, but in an almost endearing way; he just doesn’t seem to get that he crosses the line into weirdness sometimes.
The show asks that you set aside your personal views on what the characters do and see them for who they are. They’re three young people trying to find love in a world where there are many ways to love, but precious few people who love the same way we do. Go see it, see what happens, and maybe take some inspiration from it in your daily life.
LOVER LOVER has one more show on Thursday, December 7th at 9:30 PM at the Duplex at 61 Christopher Street. Tickets sold in advance are 10$, and admission at the door is 15$.
Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/536933189976392/
Subverting Something page: https://www.facebook.com/subvertingsomething/
Get tickets: https://www.purplepass.com/#mm=allevents/lover%20lover