Regional Reviews: Minneapolis/St. Paul
Also see Kit's review of 105 Proof, or, the Killing of Mack 'The Silencer' Klein
Devised and performed by a British troupe called Single Shoe Productions, Crazy Glue is based on a short story by Israeli writer Etgar Keret. The roles of the man and woman are performed by Bradley Wayne Smith and Filipa Tomas, respectively. Tomas and Smith are also Co-Artistic Directors of Single Shoe Productions, so in all respects this work is largely their creation. In performance the two have natural chemistry, making their coupling fully believable and their falling out heart breaking.
Etgar Keret's writing is fanciful, blunt and ironic all at once. In addition to being a prolific short story writer, Keret has worked on comic books, graphic novels, and film, attesting to a natural bent toward the visual presentation of his narrative. Crazy Glue lends itself delightfully to this treatment. The absence of words turns the story toward pure action and reaction, free of the complications language can cause. Of course, it also means that deeper understandings that language can provide are missing, and this seems to be at the heart of the couple's troubles.
The play begins with a man and woman each seated and facing the audience, with a small bottle labeled Crazy Glue on a table between them. In short order these two fall in love, marry, and seem to set forth on a blissful life together. We see them grooming themselves to prepare for a date, fussing and looking pleased when all is right, and later, helping each other with groomingshe straightening his tie, he setting her eyeglasses on her faceas their lives join. They raise chickens and collect eggs, prepare meals, go on outings, dance. If ever things fray a bit, they use the Crazy Glue to patch things up, and resume their good cheer. Their lovemaking is tastefully indicated with subtle cues, and we are not surprised when in due time she is pregnant. An ensuing loss all but tears them asunder. Is their crazy glue strong enough to overcome their crisis and renew their bond to one another? It seems perhaps not, and the man and woman each go into their own form of tailspin. How they resolve their plight, with force of will along with Crazy Glue, is presented in a final image that is striking, whimsical, and absolutely satisfying.
As actors, both Tomas and Smith delightfully and wordlessly portray a wide range of emotions through facial expression and body language. Tomas especially delivers a modulated performance, indicating the gradual transitions between feelings, and the tension of presenting a happy face on the outside when underneath she is falling apart. Smith more abruptly goes from one fully formed emotionself-satisfaction, infatuation, anxietyto another. Perhaps this is a function of the story, indicating a woman's tendency to experience the full spectrum of her feelings and a man's tendency to compartmentalize his emotions.
The production has no spoken lines, though at times the man or woman do verbalize gibberish, indicating their chatter, sometimes understood through its context, sometimes lost to usand isn't that true to life? It does still have an abundance of sound, with almost continuous musicmainly ballroom dance tunes and crooners from the 1920s and 1930swhich provide a frame for the pair's emotional ups and downs. Smith and Tomas also excel at producing sound effects that represent the noises that provide a soundtrack to daily life. There is little scenery beyond two small cubes and one larger one, but Catherine Webb's lighting design creates an array of different settings and moods. The dance moments are joyfully executed, with choreography by Antony Palmer.
Since its 2014 premiere, Crazy Glue has toured extensively in the United Kingdom, as well as in Germany, Sweden, Bulgaria, and in 2015 at the Physical Theater Festival in Chicago. The four performance run at the Southern Theater last weekend was the final stop in a four-city United States tour. As with many company-devised works, it may be difficult for Crazy Glue to have a life apart from its creator-performers. Their intuitive sense of the material and their chemistry as a pair of actors makes this production both delightfully silly and heartfelt. They may be presenting their love affair in the manner of clowns, but make clear the vulnerability of these winsome people and the fragility of love, that perhaps only can be held together by those who have found the formula for Crazy Glue. The play raises a question or two about love, and it entertains.
Crazy Glue was produced by Single Shoe Productions. It played November 17 - 20, 2016, as part of the Art Share series at Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Avenue S., Minneapolis, MN. For information on Southern Theater and the Art Share series, go to southerntheater.org. For information on Single Shoe Productions go to singleshoeproductions.com.
Created and performed by" Bradley Wayne Smith and Filipa Tomas; Dramaturge: Katherine Markwick; Movement Director: Bert Roman; Scenic Design, Props and Puppets: Ann Gry; Costume Design: Erin Nugent; Lighting Design: Catherine Webb; Choreographer: Antony Palmer; Clown Consultant: Alex Swift