Nicole Underhay and Blair Williams connect in Flesh And Other Fragments Of Love.
FLESH AND OTHER FRAGMENTS OF LOVE by Evelyne de la Chenelière, translated by Linda Gaboriau (Tarragon, 30 Bridgman). Runs to February 16. $27-$53, $13 rush Friday and Sunday. 416-531-1827. See listings. Rating: NNN
A corpse animates the best moments of Evelyne de la Chenelière's Flesh And Other Fragments Of Love.
The play looks at the troubled relationship between spouses Simone (Maria del Mar) and Pierre (Blair Williams), a French couple vacationing on the Irish coast.
Simone's organized the trip to reconnect with her ever-philandering husband, but their discovery of a body washed ashore - that of Mary (Nicole Underhay), a local woman who left for America after having an illegitimate child - causes them both to re-examine what's become of their lives together. Each is drawn to Mary, but in different ways.
Though the text is poetic, director Richard Rose keeps the couple's emotions cool, which some times works against the tone of the words. Only the final few scenes develop a poignancy that pulls us into the action and the relationships.
The writing often relies on monologues and repetition to convey thoughts and feelings, with the non-speaking partner reacting wordlessly to what the other says. At some level each mate feels dismissed and ignored.
While del Mar conveys Simone's jealousy from the start, her Simone needs more variety of expression and passion, even within the confines of the direction's coolness. Williams's performance is more nuanced, though Pierre's arc isn't as clearly written as Simone's.
Underhay creates the richest character. As the other two bring her to life through their imaginings of her motivations and actions, Mary is practical, intelligent, wryly comic and unromantic, a questioner of the married pair's perceived truths.
This magical conjuring of Mary isn't brought about just through the text; Denise Fujiwara's choreography keeps Underhay almost constantly in motion, a body swaying back and forth in the ebb-and-flow tide that is now her home. Even when for a time she stands still between the other two, Underhay's energy is mesmerizing.
The fine design by Karyn McCallum conjures up a beach floating in a black limbo, surrounded by an evocative cyclorama of the sea. Lit by Rebecca Picherack, the visuals reinforce the text's suggestiveness.