BWW Review: LOVE ALONE is a Beautiful Story Masterfully Presented

LOVE ALONE, a new play by Deborah Salem Smith opens City Theatre's 10th season. In 2014, she was awarded a New Play Commission by Trinity Repertory. LOVE ALONE received the Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award and an Honorable Mention for the Jane Chambers Playwriting Award. It was also a finalist for the Independent Reviewers of New England Award for Best New Play of 2013. This is a beautifully written script that has been given a masterful presentation in its Texas première. While, on the surface, this is the tale of a medical mistake that causes the death of a patient and the aftermath of that event on two families; it really is about the consequences of what one character refers to as "editing".

We all edit the information we communicate to others. Sometimes we do it because we fear how the other person will react. Sometimes it is done to spare someone's feelings. Other times it is done because we fear information will alter how we look to other people.

What playwright Deborah Salem Smith has done is used the background of an operation gone wrong to show how devastating it is when those edits come out in the open.

These edits begin to surface when Helen's partner of twenty years dies unexpectedly during what should have been a routine procedure. Helen and Clementine, their daughter, want answers. In order to cut through the hospital's silence around the death, they pursue a lawsuit that ultimately brings everyone's life edits out in the open, and, in the process, ends up transforming the lives of both Helen's family and the relationship of the doctor charged with her care. Along the way, we watch these two households go through loss, anger, and even humor on the path to healing. LOVE ALONE is also alone inhow it captures the complex emotions and aftermath of such medical tragedies. It manages to be deeply moving by avoiding the cliché medical story lines and stock characters of the careless doctor, vengeful family, and ambulance-chasing lawyer.

Director and Scenic Designer Andy Berkovsky has done a masterful job in staging this piece, from his multipurpose set to his fluid, overlapping blocking - this production flows beautifully. This is an example of the proper way to stage a play written in a cinematographic style. A very nice touch was using music by the Austin band, The Villetes, to underscore the play.

LOVE ALONE also features a superb cast that function as an ensemble, and, as such, it really is impossible to single out any one performance because this cast is working in cohesion to offer excellent storytelling. Dawn Erin, as Helen, is both funny and heartbreaking. Jesselyn Parks does a fine and moving job as Clementine, the daughter who realizes that no one person is really to blame. Samantha Brewer offers a powerful portrait of a career driven doctor who has put her career above everything. Gabriel Diehl, as the doctor's husband, gives a stirring performance of a man who, while he loves and supports his wife, can't fathom why she has put her career above their relationship. Phoebe Moore gives solid performances in all of her multiple roles with varied speech patterns and attitudes for each. Gabriel Smith nails the lawyer persona in his scenes with the doctor.

One of the striking things about LOVE ALONE is that there really is no villain to the piece. What we have instead is an honest look at all sides. It even becomes apparent that the edit of the patient as to her own medical history contributed to the tragic result.

While the piece does great education, as all fine theatre does, it never once preaches or takes a righteous tone. The end result is a fearless, deeply nuanced piece of theatre that pulls no punches

LOVE ALONE is a great evening of storytelling that is guaranteed to move you.

LOVE ALONE by Deborah Salem Smith

Running Time: Two Hours including one intermission.

LOVE ALONE produced by City Theatre (3823 Airport Blvd. Suite D., Austin, TX.)

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm through October 18th..

Reservations 512-524-2870 or info@citytheatreaustin.org



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From This Author Frank Benge