Food:Soul – Erin Browne’s Narrator 1

Link(Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Polly Lee, Jake Alexander, Michael Davis, Christina Shipp)

And long overdue. After our first two Food:Souls – Adam Szymkowicz’s Pretty Theft and Jason Grote’s This Storm Is What We Call Progress – somehow a year snuck by and we were, well, ravenous.
Luckily, our third Food:Soul featured Erin Browne’s Narrator 1, a play we’ve been hungry to spend some time with since we staged a scene from it at our 1st Have Another.
Here was our artistic team:

Narrator One
By Erin Browne
Directed by Scott Ebersold
Assistant Directed by Kyle Fox
Food:Soul Coordinator: Tiffany Clementi

Zara: Christina Shipp

Dan: Jake Alexander

Narrator 1: Polly Lee

Narrator 2: Michael Davis

Haiku: Isaiah Tanenbaum

Ari: Cotton Wright

Noah: Brian Murray

It was great to see Membership so well represented, and especially exciting to have Packawallop Productions superstars Polly Lee and Scott Ebersold in the action! But the best part of the evening was hearing Erin’s beautiful play…

(Photo: Isaiah Tanebaum. Pictured: Polly Lee, Michael Davis)

Narrator One is about the stories we tell ourselves about our own lives. It is a romantic comedy, and therefore especially concerned with the stories we tell ourselves about love. And like any true romantic comedy worth it’s salts, the question of whether the story of looking for love is better than actually finding it hangs over the play like an axe. If they fall one step too far in love with their own stories, our lovers will miss each other.

This danger is especially keen when our lovers are writers. In a brilliant theatrical move, Erin conjures two Narrators who tell the story of our lovers, Dan and Zara, even as Zara and Dan write their novels and poems of love. These three worlds – the ‘real-life’ Dan and Zara, the fictional Narrators, and the fictional fictional Haiku, Noah and Ari – weave in and out of the action around the question lingering in Narrator 1’s description of Zara’s love for Dan:

“Zara went home and stared at the wall, thinking about money, her dwindling money. Then about poverty. Then about hunger, and about how many times in her childhood she’d been truly hungry. Which was a lot. Maybe this had accustomed her to want. To want want. To need it. To need emptiness of the things she couldn’t have. Now that she could eat foods, all sorts of foods, anytime she wanted. Now that she had shelter that was as permanent and consistent as shelter could be, she needed something else unattainable. She needed a Dan.
She needed Dan.”
(Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Christina Shipp, Jake Alexander)

To want want…to need emptiness. The question is simply will Dan and Zara allow themselves to be happy, or at least find that kind of happiness that comes from not being a coward towards love.
Of course, it’s easier to muck up loving someone else if you suck at loving yourself (though we manage it all the time, thankfully). And a second theme emerges of the self-loathing that only the overly thoughtful perfect – the minds of our two lover/writers turn in on themselves and devour any trace of earned confidence or ease. They don’t have what they want, or if they do, they don’t deserve it.
And so, both our writer/lovers write about simpler things. Dan turns to (spoiler alert) haikus, embodied by enigmatic Haiku who urges Dan to act through his seventeen syllables:

So few answers now
We step into worlds unknown

My faith in you whole.

Zara (I nearly wrote Christina, so closely paired are the two in my mind) writes about two teen lovers, Ari and Noah, who in contrast to her own ceaseless doubts, live so simply he speaks to animals and she walks on water. Of course, being a romantic comedy (about a writer writing a romantic comedy), something stands in their way of being together; and even if Zara wanted to, she is unable to write them an entirely happy ending. Their story is about the opening of love, where suddenly you realize everything is possible, colliding with the opening of maturity, where you eventually realize you can’t have everything you want.

(Photo by: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Cotton Wright, Christina Shipp)

But to quote the famous philosophers, if you try some times you just might find you get what you need. Do our lovers, and their fictional (and fictional fictional) counterparts, get what they need? Well, to quote our eminently quotable Narrators:

Things become more and less complicated.
(Photo: by Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Jake Alexander, Christina Shipp)

There were many exciting surprises in the evening – how funny the play is! how funny Polly Lee is! how fast a play about thinking can move! And Jake brought a soulfulness to the troubled Dan, Michael’s wry Narrator 2 was a perfect foil to Polly’s inspired Narrator 1 (her Maggie’s crying brought the house down), new friend Brian Murray found the sweetness of Noah, with Cotton finding the bittersweetness of their journey; Isaiah made of his seventeen syllables a character of intention and hope; and Christina slipped on Zara like a perfectly tailored elegant suit, and the part (and play) sang.

A great thanks to Scott (and Kyle!) for his excellent direction – he was able to capture the three interlocking worlds with grace and simplicity. A huge thanks to Tiffany Clementi for making everything run smooth. And above all, a thanks to everyone who came (and brought delicious food) to our third Food:Soul.

I left full.

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