'Savage/Love' performance this weekend

By Christina Oddo

Contributing Writer

A friend’s turbulent relationship inspired theatre major Ali Keller ’12 to direct “Savage/Love,” a set of 19 monologues written by Sam Shepard and Joseph Chaikin.

Over the summer, Keller spoke to a friend at home who was involved in a two-year relationship. Her friend complained about his girlfriend, their frequent fights and mishaps. Keller asked her friendf why he was still in that relationship, and he answered that he was just too scared to start dating again. The last thing he said was “and I love her.” This conversation struck Keller as strange and complex and motivated her to direct “Savage/Love.”

Shepard’s monologues highlight moments in relationships that are similar to what Keller noted in her friend’s, one that “went on too long.” The difficulties associated with this type of relationship are relatable to anyone at any age, “especially college students,” Keller said. College students are at the age where relationships are just “complicated.” The people in a relationship have to know what the other wants: whether to have a long or short-term relationship, or whether to stay together after college.

Emily Hooper ’14 and Jeff Simkins ’13, both actors in the play, discussed the uniqueness of the script, originally written as a one-man show.

“There is so much you can do with it,” Hooper said. “There is so much to work with.”

Keller made the artistic decision to depict a relationship by creating a dialogue of monologues, maintaining the same order of monologues originally created by Shepard with some slight variation. This project is the “most unique thing I have ever done,” Hooper said.

Both cast members and the director commented on how the script itself is so ambiguous that every word and phrase can be said either angrily or lovingly, depending on the “initiative” of the actor.

The script is also unique in that the interactions between the two characters are unsettling, as the reactions that take place are not typical. It is about “what’s going on underneath the words,” Simkins said.

In this way, “the words can apply to anyone,” Hooper said.

Keller gave the two cast members an assignment to find what works best for them: go on a “caf” date. This helped shape the relationship the two would portray on stage, the details that would mold their words, their actions and reactions. Nineteen monologues can be quite overwhelming, and given the open-endedness of the script, the actors needed to dig deeper into their characters.

“There is nothing provided,” Simkins said. It was up to the actors to develop the characters and their emotions.

“The rhythm and the beat are challenging,” Simkins said. He is excited to see “how people will react to the abstract movement” of the play, and the “fun symbolism.”

The suspense developed throughout the play is notable. Keller uses silence in a way that is noisy. The silence and lack of communication are unsettling, and the repeated notion of time and “ticking” highlights one of the central themes of the play: the cyclical behavior of relationships. What if you took out parts of this cycle, like “the break up” or “the set of compromises” that follow “the break up?” Simply put, you get “Savage/Love.”

“Savage/Love” plays Friday and Saturday night at 8 p.m. in the Black Box Theatre in Tustin Studios. Tickets are available at the box office in the Weis Center for only $4.

Take it from one who has already got a sneak peak of “Savage/Love”: it is an enticing and engaging performance that you will never forget.

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