A bookstore owner and a young writer forge a friendship that dredges up dark pasts.
This 2014 two-hander by A. Rey Pamatmat (Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them), receiving its Chicago premiere in a smart and keenly acted About Face Theatre production, takes its title from Frank O’Hara’s poem “Poem.” Daniel (Colin Sphar), a recent college grad, is a little bit “obsessed” with O’Hara’s work, he tells Linda (Lisa Tejero), the owner of the bookstore in Daniel’s hometown where he’s come to apply for a job.
Daniel’s returned to the small Midwestern town he left in 7th grade when his parents got divorced, despite having lived in Chicago for the last ten years. He tells Linda he’s seeking peace and quiet while he works on his first “real” novel, which tells parallel stories of O’Hara and his sometime lover Joe LeSueur and a fictional, contemporary young gay man who’s fallen in love with his former childhood bully. Linda believes Daniel’s running away from something, and she’s also convinced his work-in-progress is a roman à clef. She’s onto something, but it’s not exactly what she thinks.
Pamatmat unveils surprising connections between the two as they open up to one another over the course of several weeks (though we can see some of the reveals coming before the characters do). Sphar charms and convinces as the tightly wound Daniel, whose relationship with his own sexuality clearly is more complicated than he presents; Tejero is wonderfully detailed as her drawing out of Daniel’s story touches raw nerves of her own. Staged by About Face artistic director Andrew Volkoff on Chelsea M. Warren’s cozy bookstore set, after all the terrible things i do, like O’Hara’s “Poem,” is a quietly evocative consideration of forgiveness.
About Face Theatre at Theater Wit. By A. Rey Pamatmat. Directed by Andrew Volkoff. With Colin Sphar, Lisa Tejero. Running time: 1hr 40mins; no intermission.