Pascal Rambert's physically static, emotionally furious Love's End knows exactly how much it is playing with patience—its simmer, its evaporation, its sudden return. Formed from a pair of dueling, nearly hour-long monologues, Love's End drives us through irritation (“I know you're looking at your watch,” says an actor, unapologetically) to fascinated suspension and even a creepy, rubber-necking excitement. It takes patience to watch, but its rewards are intriguing—if incredibly bitter. Its own humor puckers up at the show's astringency: “If there were people here watching us, we'd tell them, this is your chance to leave,” remarks our first speaker, Jim (Jim Fletcher), after a solid 45 minutes of cruel, bewildering blather.
Jim has been verbally pummeling his lover, Kate (Kate Moran), breaking up with her over and over again—detailing his lack of interest in her body (“Your chest and your way of looking don't do anything for me anymore”) in a looping, endless, self-justifying lyric. Above them is a ceiling of fluorescent tubes, around them the bare walls of the Abrons theatre. The two actors stay almost completely still, forming a strong diagonal, two bishops at opposite corners of a board. After a surprising, sweet entr'acte, the combatants rotate so that Moran—now facing us from the back of the stage—can unleash her own stream of fire at Jim, who has come to stand at the lip. “You killed the language that made us,” she says, righteously furious.
Fletcher, a muse and favorite actor of creators like Richard Maxwell and Elevator Repair Service, has a curiously resonant head; everything he says emerges colored by his flat yet musical tone, making familiar words seem exotic and exotic ones banal. This weird, didgeridoo timbre and his jazz-inflected verbal emphases make him seem part instrument/part man—the perfect conduit for Rambert's extended, occasionally abstract text. Moran, on the other hand, makes sense out of everything, and the contrast proves delicious. “Who talks like that? Who thinks like that?” she sneers at Jim, puncturing the actor, and even the text behind the actor. The production's elegance sometimes shades into the merely chic, and I cannot claim its pleasures are absorbing. But there's glamour, true glamour, in two such tremendous actors being matched so perfectly, and we can enjoy a sick delight in the way they take up Rambert's well-balanced lances to run full tilt into each other.—Helen Shaw
For more details and tickets, visit the FIAF/Crossing the Line website.