You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

An Infinite Ache

There's no doubt that David Schulner has playwriting skills and can conjure laughter, or that his new two-character romantic comedy "An Infinite Ache" has its fleeting charms. Trouble is, it also evokes a sense of deja vu as it covers ground already so well (and sometimes better) traveled, notably in Jan de Hartog's 1951 "The Fourposter."

Hope - Angel Desai
Charles - Peter A. Smith

There’s no doubt that David Schulner has playwriting skills and can conjure laughter, or that his new two-character romantic comedy “An Infinite Ache” has its fleeting charms. Trouble is, it also evokes a sense of deja vu as it covers ground already so well (and sometimes better) traveled, notably in Jan de Hartog’s 1951 marital comedy “The Fourposter” and, even more briskly and briefly, in Ira Gershwin’s lyrics for “The Saga of Jenny” in the 1941 Kurt Weill musical “Lady in the Dark.” Another problem is that Schulner’s Hope and Charles aren’t particularly interesting people, with the latter blandly two-dimensional.

“An Infinite Ache” is set in a bedroom dominated by a double bed, as are the 35 years covered by “The Fourposter.” Schulner’s fast-forward portrait of a marriage unfolds over about 50 years, from Charles and Hope’s first blind date in their 20s to Hope’s death. Or does it? The play’s archly irritating epilogue suggests that what we’ve seen has, in fact, been Charles’ dream of what marriage to Hope might be like as she takes a nap for the duration of the play because she has a headache from the wine they had at their first-date dinner. The possibility exists that they might not get married at all or that, even if they do, their life together could be entirely different.

Hope is the better role, that of an admittedly difficult Chinese-Filipino-American Californian would-be actress, and Angel Desai brings an attractive presence to it, though she sometimes lets her vocal volume drop too low. As the Jewish Charles, a newcomer to Los Angeles, Peter A. Smith takes his role too much at face value. He’s never less than likeable, but he tends to be forgettable.

As the play appears to whip through the years, both actors have to be emotional quick-change artists. And, indeed, they are technically able to encompass the abrupt switches involved in loving, fighting and grieving as Hope and Charles live together, marry, lose their first child and undergo counseling in order to come to terms with their loss, cope with their second child and her growing pains, etc., all in 83 minutes (though it seems longer). At one point, a pile of clothes in Hope’s arms destined for the dry cleaners metamorphoses into their first baby, Buddy. Charles asks if they could have a dog, they get a dog, and they get rid of the dog, all in the space of less than a minute.

But somehow we never really get to know this couple or what makes them tick, and it becomes clear that for “An Infinite Ache” (the ache of love) to fully work, it would need two big stars such as Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy in the Broadway “The Fourposter” or Mary Martin and Robert Preston in “I Do! I Do!,” Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt’s 1966 musical of the Hartog play. Desai and Smith just don’t have the stature or role-enhancing personalities needed.

LWT acting artistic director Greg Leaming has helped them negotiate the play’s physical demands with panache. Marjorie Bradley Kellogg has cleverly supplied a basic bedroom setting that is constantly re-dressed and refurnished, mostly by the actors themselves. In something of a circus trick, endless bits and pieces come out of a suitcase, including potted plants, lamps and rugs. And the bedroom doors constantly open onto different rooms behind them — a closet becomes a bathroom, for instance — as the play moves from Charles’ one-room L.A. apartment to a larger apartment and so on. Kellogg gives her realistic set a surrealist tweak by painting a blue sky with clouds on either side of it.

Following its Dec. 12-Jan. 20 LWT run, “An Infinite Ache” is scheduled to transfer to the Stamford (Conn.) Center for the Arts’ Rich Forum Jan. 25-31. LWT’s intimate 199-seat Stage II is the right size for this production, so it seems likely to fare less well in the SCA’s 750-seat Rich. Meanwhile, playwright Schulner might consider giving his characters more substance, particularly Charles.

An Infinite Ache

Long Wharf Theater Stage II, New Haven, Conn.; 199 seats; $45 top

Production: A Long Wharf Theater presentation of a play in one act by David Schulner. Directed by Greg Leaming.

Creative: Set, Marjorie Bradley Kellogg; costumes, David Zinn; lighting, Dan Kotlowitz; sound design and original music, Fabian Obispo; production stage managers, Kevin E. Thompson, Stephen McCorkle. Commissioned by South Coast Repertory, Costa Mesa, Calif., and developed by the Cape Cod (Mass.) Theater Project. Long Wharf Theater acting artistic director, Leaming. Opened, reviewed Dec. 19, 2001. Running time: 1 HOUR, 23 MIN.

Cast: Hope - Angel Desai
Charles - Peter A. Smith

More Legit

  • The Jungle review

    Off Broadway Review: 'The Jungle'

    With the rumbling of semis careening by and the sound of Middle Eastern music in the distance, “The Jungle” aims to vividly immerse audiences into the world of the real-life migrant and refugee camp of the same name. By telling the story of the Jungle’s creation in Calais, France, in 2015, and its eventual destruction [...]

  • Hillary Clinton'Network' play opening night, New

    Hillary Clinton Attends Opening of Broadway's 'Network'

    A 1976 film might not be expected to translate seamlessly to Broadway in 2018, but for the cast and creative team behind “Network,” which premiered Thursday night with Hillary Clinton in the audience, the story still feels uncomfortably close to home. “It was a satire then, and now it’s documentary realism,” said Lee Hall, who [...]

  • 'Network' Review: Bryan Cranston Stars on

    Broadway Review: 'Network' With Bryan Cranston

    The 1976 film “Network” won four Academy Awards, including best original screenplay for writer Paddy Chayefsky, for its blistering portrayal of an American society fueled by greed and bloated on corruption. A haggard Peter Finch took the best actor trophy for his harrowing performance as Howard Beale, a TV newsman who is so disgusted by [...]

  • Faye DunawayVanity Fair Oscar Party, Arrivals,

    Faye Dunaway to Play Katharine Hepburn on Broadway

    Faye Dunaway will return to Broadway to play another acting diva. The Oscar-winner is set to portray Katharine Hepburn in “Tea at Five,” a one-woman play that charts the movie legend’s career over the course of a winding monologue. Dunaway last appeared on Broadway in 1982’s “The Curse of the Aching Heart.” In the 1990s, [...]

  • Philip Bosco'The Savages' film after party,

    Tony Award Winner Philip Bosco Dies at 88

    Veteran character actor Philip Bosco, who won a Tony Award in 1989 for “Lend Me a Tenor” as an opera impresario and was nominated five other times, died Monday, according to his grandson, Luke Bosco. He was 88. Bosco received his first Tony nomination for “Rape of the Belt” in 1960. His other nominations were [...]

  • Hugh Jackman

    Hugh Jackman Says 'Greatest Showman' Success Made Him Revive Stage Show

    Hugh Jackman could have spent his hiatus between movies soaking up rays in Saint-Tropez. Instead of lounging poolside, the movie star will return to the stage for a grueling series of arena performances that will take him across Europe, Australia, and the U.S. The upcoming musical extravaganza, “The Man. The Music. The Show.,” kicks off [...]

  • Bob Mackie, Costume Designer and Cher'The

    Watch Cher's Surprise Performance at the Opening of Broadway's 'Cher' Musical

    Kanye West may have caused some unwanted drama at the opening of Broadway’s “The Cher Show” on Monday in New York, but thankfully his alleged bad behavior didn’t come close to spoiling the evening. Cher herself caused fantastic frenzy as she glided down the aisle of the jam-packed Neil Simon Theatre toward her seat. All [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content