By Dipika Guha; Directed by Elena Araoz
Produced by To-By-For Productions
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 9.24.16
Paradise Factory, 64 East 4th Street
by Adrienne Urbanski on 9.17.16
Sathya Sridharan, Eric T. Miller, Victoria Frings, and Anastasia Olowin in Mechanics of Love. Photo by Joe Pickard.
BOTTOM LINE: This wacky, surreal comedy offers some metaphorical musings about the nature of romantic love and moments of laughable comedic absurdity.
Why and how one falls into romantic love are the questions at the heart of To-By-For’s Mechanics of Love, which focuses on a love rectangle of four characters, all of whom fall in and out of love with one another as they chase their mercurial whims. In a fit of what seems to be love at first sight Glen (Sathya Sridharan) marries Francesca (Anastasia Olowin), a former ballerina who fled Mother Russia, and who now, after an accident, has been fitted with an artificial spine that makes her dancing seem rigid and mechanical. Glen reveals to his new bride that he suffers from a condition where moments of emotional intensity cause him memory loss, and that he has a long line of angry women in his past, all of whom have been left scorned by his faulty memory. He soon realizes that he already is married to another woman, the high-strung Faizi (Victoria Frings); left with two wives, Glen is unsure about what to do.
Faizi, initially intending to destroy Francesca, instead sees potential gain in her naïve earnestness, and asks to live with Francesca and Glen. Francesca, open to being remolded and dominated, enjoys Faizi taking hold of her life; soon Francesca is declaring her love for Faizi and the two passionately kiss, abandoning any interest in Glen. Georg (Eric T. Miller), Glen’s mechanic friend, who tries to break down the world around him the way he does cars, wonders about the mechanics of the grass, of clouds, and of course of the human heart. Georg comes to desire both women, first coupling with Francesca over her ability to dream and to push him to want to be more. Disillusioned with her idealism once he sees her dancing, he is then drawn towards Faizi’s pragmatic coldness.
The four chase each other around with little regard for anyone else, putting their desires ahead of any loyalty or ethics, believing each time that they have finally found true love all while their actions grow more and more ridiculous. The cast embodies each of their often absurd characters fully. Olowin in particular appealingly conveys her character’s openness and naiveté. Gupha’s script uniquely pokes fun at the absurd behaviors and ideals society associates with “falling in love,” causing the audience to ask what love really is. The characters' humorous pastimes, including Faizi's hyper-competitive games of charades (she later brags about competing professionally), raise questions about the nature of reality and an artist's ability to create something out of nothing. While the madcap humor sails for most of the play, it begins to sink by the end, going off into tangents and losing focus on the very aspects that gave it flight. Perhaps with some revising and refocusing, Gupha’s work could be a thing of greatness. As is, however, the work has much to admire, offering the sort of zany fare that makes off off Broadway theater worth taking a chance on.
(Mechanics of Love plays at Paradise Factory, 64 East 4th Street, through September 24, 2016. The running time is approximately 100 minutes without an intermission. Performances are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30; Fridays at 8; Saturdays at 2 and 8; and Sundays at 2. Tickets are $18; for tickets and more information visit tobyforproductions.com or call 800-838-3006.)
Mechanics of Love is by Dipka Guha. Directed by Elena Araoz. Choreography is by Name. Set Design is by Justin Townsend. Lighting Design is by Michael McGee. Sound Design is by Nathan Leigh. Additional Music is by Name. Stage Manager is Alannah O'Hagan
The cast is Victoria Frings, Eric T. Miller, Anastasia Olowin, and Sathya Sridharan.