The standard romcom formula closely follows a couple as they meet cute, flirt and then overcome obstacles on their path to a first date, first kiss and true love. English playwright Bathsheba Doran smartly turns that construct inside out in her funny, moving 2011 work: We see the relationship between American poetry scholar Anna (Stacie Beth Green) and Irish personal trainer Sean (Shane Kenyon) develop around its edges, not in scenes between the two but in the ways the romance affects their interactions with friends and family members over several years.
In a conversation between Anna and her needy best friend, struggling actor Helena (scene-stealer Ann Sonneville), we learn that Anna’s adjusted her online dating parameters to get away from bankers and lawyers; in the next scene between the two, after Anna and Sean have been dating for some time, Helena claims he’s had an effect on Anna’s wardrobe. Early on, Anna’s gruff, distant father (John Fenner Mays) expresses his disdain for Sean to his ailing lover (Maggie Cain); much later, he tells Sean’s alcoholic, agoraphobic mother (an intense Susan Monts-Bologna) how much he genuinely admires her son. Doran slowly, skillfully unveils information about the state of Anna and Sean’s union.
Director Jess McLeod imbues her production with sensitivity and grace. As each of the play’s 21 scenes unfolds, Scott Davis’s clever open-set design allows inactive characters to remain in the periphery, partially hidden but not out of sight. It’s a striking metaphor for the way our kin, present or not, weigh on our lives.