Erik Abbott and Christine Probst are “very good” in the Actors Rep production of “Flowers In The Desert” directde by Timothy Lone
Photo: Actors Rep
Theatre: A review of the Actors’ Rep production of Donna Hoke’s “Flowers In The Desert”.
You’re lured in immediately by the casual setting of Nature Elements on route d’Esch. Inside the cafe, upbeat American songs play in the background and there is chatter amongst the eager audience. Wine and refreshments are served before the play starts. As soon as the lights are dimmed, we meet the two characters at Mo’s Bar and Grill. The same place where the play ends.
“Flowers in the Desert” by Donna Hoke is disguised as a simple piece of drama about relationships. In some moments it is funny, touching and sometimes raw. But what it really is, is anything but simple.
Britt and Joe are attempting to rekindle their relationship, after 14 years of divorce. The audience is invited into every dark crevice of their tainted relationship. Nothing is off limits. The play is split into eight scenes and each scene is another date night in a series of date nights that were prescribed to the couple by a relationship counsellor as part of their ‘re-coupling’.
From dates at the art museum, chosen by Britt, to dates chosen by Joe, at a Sports Bar, Buffalo-based, award-winning playwright Hoke uses gender stereotypes to her advantage. The effect is achingly familiar. Almost too familiar sometimes. If the nodding heads in the audience were anything to go by, it was clear that everyone could relate to the honesty of the play. It revealed the vulnerabilities that creep into every relationship--the beauty of it, but also the distress and frustration that comes with it.
No stone left unturned
Joe can’t stand when Britt gets emotional and teary-eyed during arguments and Britt is constantly dealing with Joe’s ‘affection for waitresses’. There were mentions of exes, of sexual tension, of irresponsible parenting and even of infidelity. There was no stone left unturned.
Director Timothy Lone, a founder and producing director at Actors Rep, is intricate in his work and the intimacy that he creates for this production is rather spellbinding. The 80-minute play has no interval; you’re whisked off on the emotional roller coaster that is Britt and Joe’s relationship, right till the lights come back on.
The minimalist set and stage allows the audience to focus on the real issues at hand: A cheating ex-husband with a wandering eye, and a cautious ex-wife who has initiated relationship counselling, with her own agenda in mind. While Britt embodies your stereotypical art-loving, feisty middle-aged woman, Joe is also your ‘average baseball watching, beer drinking Joe’.
This is a no-frills production that is passionate, thought-provoking and extremely truthful. Lone has cleverly chosen this approach to compliment the depth and sincerity of Hoke’s writing. The scene changes are swift, simplistic and rely heavily on the acting skills of the actors rather than the set design. Luckily, the actors are very good.
Christine Probst, who plays Britt, gives us a raw and truthful presentation of what life is like as a divorced mother, trying to pull her family back together. Probst is animated and vulnerable at the same time, a killer combination. Erik Abbott has over thirty-five years of experience in theatre, and it shows. He woos the audience with his comic timing, yet his portrayal of a typical red-blooded male with a ‘taste for waitresses’ leaves the men in the audience ashamed and the women nodding again knowingly.
There is still a chance to see ‘Flowers in the Desert’ at 19.30 on 8th, 9th, 10th October 2015, and at 18.00 on 11th October 2015. Tickets are available from www.actorsrep.lu.