A Kind of Surrender
The Engaged Theatre
Through May 5 788-6670

I've never attended a theatrical performance in the basement of a pizza parlor before, but on assignment, I loped on over to It's a Beautiful Pizza on Belmont Street. Downstairs, a U-shaped grouping of chairs outlined piles of trashy romance novels. A very small stage was almost barren of props, and a curtain flickered every few moments, lit by a video projector. As I read the indulgent two-page statement of purpose for The Engaged Theatre--replete with not one, but two quotes by Jean-Paul Sartre--I began to wonder exactly to what I had gotten myself assigned.

Thankfully, the cast members prowling their minimalist "stage" within a few feet of you oddly works, and the pretensions of the program don't carry through to the work itself. A Kind of Surrender is a two-person play written by Jacob Juntunen and directed by Jesse Baldwin (with special film segments directed by Will Brown). Its characters are only named in the program as The Man (Owen Edson) and The Woman (Timeca Briggs). As the show begins, Man is sitting on a fire escape, ruminating to the audience about a failed love affair he's trying to drown out, then introduces the flashbacks by noting, "everyone loves a car crash, even when you're inside the car." Woman appears momentarily to make him promise he won't make this all look like her fault.

In the past, they meet repeatedly, before beginning to date. After awhile, it becomes clear that he's from the post-sensitive man era and thinks nothing of endlessly discussing his feelings and hers, while never fully giving her his real attention. She, in turn, is comforting and nurturing, while still being suspicious of his motives, and is critical of what he says versus what she perceives he is saying. Along the way they discuss monogamy and the difficulties with that outmoded concept in a media-driven world which assaults us with sexual imagery; they also discuss the abstracts of real free speech and freedom of choice versus the way some people use those freedoms to hurt others.

With almost no humor or direct emotion, A Kind of Surrender nonetheless engages, but perhaps not in the way intended. The script, and the cadence of the actors (especially Edson), create almost a hypnotic effect of being washed over by the words; more than once I had to mentally shake myself out of a trance. Edson is fine and articulate, though one wonders if his Benicio del Toro sideburns and hairstyle weren't a trendy choice. My engagement went more to Briggs, whose role is slightly lesser, but whose energy and spirit filled the small staging area. And how nice to see an interracial couple portrayed without any negative attention called to it.

I wouldn't suggest A Kind of Surrender to anyone whose relationship is on the rocks, but daters might find some new things to talk about, and stable relationshippers might enjoy the pacing and verbal waterfall of the show. And afterward, head upstairs for pizza. I recommend their spinach-feta slice.