STW explores love as 'An Infinite Ache'
By David A. Rosenberg
The years fly by in “An Infinite Ache,” the touching, engaging, skin-deep examination of the relationship between Charles and Hope, two Americans of different backgrounds. (He’s Jewish; she’s Filipino-Chinese.) At Stamford Theater Works, under Steve Karp’s inventive direction, author David Schulner’s tricky piece traces the years from courtship through marriage, parenthood, divorce, reconciliation and old age – all in 90 minutes.
That the events may be taking place in Charles’ mind gives an added fillip to the evening, as if by knowing what’s ahead one can avoid pitfalls. But, like much else, that aspect is only lightly suggested and seems more a superficial device than a mysterious conundrum.
Yet, the play’s very banality is one of its strengths: Love is an infinite ache, it says, bringing joy as well as pain, agreements as well as arguments. We’re all in the same boat. Life is fleeting and telescoped.
Thus, one moment the couple’s daughter is off to sleep-away camp, the next she’s a teenager, then, in a flash, a wife and a mom. A pet dog’s trajectory is taken care of in three sentences. A son’s life is depicted as a blue baby blanket in a sequence unfortunately short on believability.
“Time has a way of working things out,” says Hope. Their relationship is, as Charles says, their “beshert,” Yiddish for finding one’s soul mate. Schulner, in capturing the tentative dreams and opportunities for genuine happiness that pervade most lives, shows an ear for the dialogue of people without anything particularly weighty to say to one another. Just like most of us.
If we learn a lot about the couple’s adventures but little about the couple, at least we’re clued into a kind of short-hand survey course of ordinary lives. Charles is eager, awkward, emotional and devoted. Hope is stronger, edgier, spicier, more reticent to display her feelings.
As Charles, Tristan Colton is affable and lovable, while Vanessa Kai plays Hope with touches of regret and aloofness. It’s a marriage of hot and cold, mirrored in Kenneth A. Larson’s all-purpose bedroom setting, transformed from bare bachelor pad to furnished house and back again. At its center, quite properly, is a bed that has served generations who have no doubt gone through as many ups and downs as has the couple before us.
Since another meaning of “beshert” is destiny, it’s appropriate that “An Infinite Ache” is scheduled to show up as a musical in Pittsburgh later this year, according to that city’s Tribune-Review newspaper. Perhaps the addition of songs will strengthen what is now a cursory work, however clever and entertaining it often is.
(This review appeared in The Hour, May 4, 2008)