Inanimate: A Sign of True Love

Inanimatesign

Inanimate: A Sign of True Love

By Ross

So often we speak of Love as a sign. A sign for something important, a warning, or maybe even an invitation. But what if the sign is exactly that, a sign on a tall metal pole making your heart ache? A hotel sign or maybe a Dairy Queen sign. And what if that sign is the object of sexual desire, adoration, and affection. What if it is true love? Literally. What would people think? How would they make sense of it? What would they try to do? And how would all this be like for the human counterpart? 

These are some, but definitely not all, the questions that are proposed in The Flea’s first production inside their new and quite beautiful theatre. Inanimate by playwright, Nick Robideau (Pipeline Theatre Company’s Robot Heaven, Title:Point’s The Sampo), dares to challenge us to see past the bizarreness and into the humanity of a love that would have even the most liberal minded scratch their head. The heroine, Erica, played with a jittery intensity by the magnificent Lacy Allen (BOOM’s Thin Mints) is that love/obsessed woman transfixed by Dee, the Dairy Queen sign, humanized in a fun and imaginative performance by Philip Feldman (The Flea’s The Trojan Women). He’s sensual and engaging, and his energy is definitely male so says Erica. They are a match made in the heavenly parking lot, and nothing will come between them.

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Lacy Allen, Philip Feldman. All photos by Hunter Canning.

Once she acknowledges to herself that this love is a love worth speaking out loud, everyday objects start conversing with her, quite literally, sometimes loudly, and tonally sexual, talking in a language that is more about passion than words and phrases.  These  objects, such as a teddy bear and a can opener, among other things, are embodied by the flexible and creative team of actors (Artem Kreimer, Nancy Tatiana Quintana, Michael Oloyede) who also do double or triple duty as neighbors, reporters, and other such judgmental residents of this small Massachusetts town that have no problem being as vocal as Erika’s lamp. 

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Michael Oloyede, Nancy Tatiana Quintana, Lacy Allen, Artem Kreimer. Photo by Hunter Canning.

And then we have the opposing players in Erika’s world.  Kevin, played mischievously by the very funny Maki Borden (The Flea’s Wolf in the River) is the open minded Dairy Queen almost-manager, who has a not-so-secret crush on Erika. He has been adoring her since high school, slightly based on what appears as her uncaring zen-like approach to the miserable world that surrounds them both.  His love is the more garden variety, but his mind is as open as one could hope. His care for Erika is truly touching as they embark on embracing their own creative ideas of love and affection, listening to their hearts and souls, and forging their own tribe outside of the ‘norm’.

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Lacy Allen, Maki Borden. Photo by Hunter Canning.

On the other side of the spectrum is her politically minded sister, Trish, played a bit flatly at first by Tressa Preston (TITAN’s Twelfth Night).  Ever since their mother died, Trish has been trying to lead the family into a politically successful position within the community, but Erika’s erratic behavior with canned goods is causing conflict.  It’s a well crafted character that Preston grows into as she struggles to be supportive, caring, and maternal, but can’t seem to see outside of the narrow box of femininity and sexuality.

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Lacy Allen, Artem Kreimer. Photo by Hunter Canning.

With a well executed design (scenic: Yu-Hsuan Chen; costume: Sarah Lawrence; lighting: Becky Heisler McCarthy; sound: Megan Culley), Inanimate succeeds in taking us down a very funny and touching road into the real world of Objectum Sexuality (check out their website: http://www.objectum-sexuality.org) that seems perfectly timed in our world’s preoccupation with another’s sexual preferences and/or gender affiliation.  Wonderfully directed by Courtney Ulrich (The Flea’s White Hot, The Feast), we cheer on Erika and her gradually eye-opening and embracing of herself, not as an outsider, but somewhat of a pioneer, braving a new world, with Kevin by her side, standing tall against all those small minds up against her. It’s powerful, exciting, and a whole lot of fun.  Take this review as a sign, to go see Inanimate. But be warned, I will never look at a can opener again in the same casual way….

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4 comments

  1. […] Hardy, in an attempt to fiddle with the classic tale, alters two components in order to explore the life-altering power of love, what sacrifices might be made in search of an ordinary life, and what and where does the value of this so-called ordinary existence reside. She suggests in the opening moments, that Beauty and love have not been found, and years and years have gone by with the Beast in isolation, reading about love, but slowly cutting him off more and more from humanity. ‘Despair’ is what he growls out into the universe as he wallows on the floor. The servant that has stayed with him, is the polar opposite of Lumiere, she is a lamp made human by the curse, there to shed light and care on her troubled master.  They have decided to leave the castle after centuries of waiting, losing hope with every year, and move into an apartment in modern day Chicago.  The Beast, played loudly and boldly by Christopher Alexey Diaz (Claudio in The Night Shift’s Measure for Measure) is first seen weeping in the corner of this antiquatedly furnished apartment, surrounded by the books he loves, and the rose bush he cherishes (although I’m not sure why as it doesn’t seem to have the same heightened magical purpose in this re-telling).  The Lamp, portrayed brightly by Maghann Garmany (Regina Robbins’ Quicksand) arrives with suitcases and the cheeriest demeanor imaginable.  She attempts to embody what a lamp would be like as a human, although maybe a bit too rigidly and constantly throughout. But she does have optimistic hope that this modern new world will bring love to their door, and the curse will be broken. The perplexing question that presents itself in this reworking, is what will happen to her if the Beast does find love? Will she be content to return to the world of the inanimate object? (Takes me back to that funny interesting play about Objectum Sexuality that I saw a while back called Inanimate.) […]

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