With all the leftover Valentine’s Day cards, candy and stuffed animals littering the shelves at Duane Reade and Walgreens, the remnants of the world’s biggest day of manufactured adoration is still lingering in the city, but are special shared menus, boxes of chocolate and Hallmark cards true representations of love? Love is more than corporate displays of affection. Last Friday, I attended the opening performance of “all about love”, an off-Broadway production at the Paradise Factory Theater.
“all about love” is an engaging and truthful exploration of love and its many facets. Written by Donysha Smith, who is also making her directorial debut, “all about love” is a wonderful reflection of a lifetime labor. “I used to put on plays at three-years-old. I used to put the tablecloth around my neck and become a different character and perform for my family and extended family at cookouts,” she says. Smith is a Philadelphia born playwright, producer and actress. She earned a B.F.A in Dramatic Writing from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. She has held several roles in NYC Theater, Media and Fashion. “This is all I ever wanted to do my entire life and I’m finally at a place in my life where it’s like this is what I’m going to do,” Donysha adds.
“all about love” is a tapestry that combines three perspectives of love. The first, Three Point Stance at the Edge of the World, journeys into the psyche of soldiers living for the love they receive through letters from family and lovers at home. Zdenko Slobodnik, an Iraq War soldier, and Wesley Voley, a Union soldier during the Civil War, provide a harsh glimpse into the alienation, somber, stressful and loveless existence that a soldier during wartime endures. Sometimes love is a desperate thing. Through Slobodnik’s and Voley’s narration of the letters they send home the audience can feel their desperation and frustration to get home, back to the people they love. The choreography in this scene is sharp and aggressive and compliments the performances given by these two actors.
The second, Carmelita 1:13, provides a modern “Thorn Birds” look at love. The scene involves a young couple in the throws of a break up. Carmelita’s love for the lord is driving a wedge between her relationship and is pushing her and her man to the brink of insanity. When falling in and out of love, one can sometimes forget how another person’s upbringing and religious beliefs can affect their views on love. Carmelita 1:13 is a poignant observation of a relationship from the other side of the spectrum. As the characters played by Bianca Lemaire and Erickson Dautruche share memories while also expressing anger and confusion, the audience is reminded of how a breakup is just as multi-dimensional as a relationship and sometimes people must break apart in order to find their way back to each other.
After a brief intermission, the audience is treated to an amusing display of Casual Addictions and Lost & Found, the third and final scene. Lost and Found is a touching story about acceptance and unconditional love. While shopping for a family dinner, an elderly gay couple comes to grips with failed past relationships, a disapproving daughter and dementia. As the scene ends, they learn the only way to move forward is with love, and a dance doesn’t hurt either. Jeff Kozel, Warren Katz and Aubyn Peterson are extremely convincing and moved me to the brink of tears.
Aiding in the transition of the scenes are video interludes and the music of Stevie Wonder. “I think that Stevie’s music is hopeful, it’s honest [and] it is resonant,” Donysha explains about the use of Stevie Wonder’s music in the show, “He’s one of those artists that everybody loves. Everyone knows a Stevie Wonder song. No matter what their age, class [or] race, everybody can hear one of his songs and is like that is my jam.” The video contains footage of New Yorkers talking about their perception of love and their experience with it, and creates a love letter to New Yorkers in general.
A percentage of ticket sales from “all about love” will go to the Fistula Foundation, www.fistulafoundation.org. The Fistula Foundation a nonprofit corporation dedicated to raising awareness of and funding for fistula treatment, prevention and educational programs worldwide.
“all about love” will be playing at the Paradise Factory Theater until February 21. I suggest all FAMERS get a dose of love before this productions ends.
To purchase tickets for “all about love”, please visit www.allaboutloveshow.com.
Photos courtesy of D. Austin