As Aesop first noted in his fable “The Mule” and famed New York editor Arthur Brisbane (1864-1936) later paraphrased, there are three sides to every story: his side, her side, and the truth. That’s the premise on which Scottish playwright D.C. Jackson based MY ROMANTIC HISTORY, now in its Philadelphia premiere with Inis Nua Theatre Company. The semi-autobiographical romantic comedy was an award winner in the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and it’s an unequivocal winner here in Inis Nua’s very funny and very clever production.
Following his first day on the job in a claustrophobic Glasgow office, new hire Tom (Aubie Merrylees) joins co-worker Amy (Emilie Krause)—goaded by their colleague Sasha (Jenna Horton)–for after-work drinks at a nearby bar. The pair’s nervous over-imbibing leads to a drunken one-night stand, an awkward morning after, and a continuing series of unenthusiastic hook-ups. Their comical liaison triggers over-blown recollections of their first teenage loves (Allison and Calvin, also played by Krause and Merrylees) and the laughably disastrous string of subsequent romances that leave both of them fixated on the one that got away.
The play unfolds as a ‘he said/she said’ battle of the sexes, as Tom relates his hysterically indelicate perspective on the couple’s prickly romance in the first act, and Amy dishes her own contrasting but equally saucy account in the second. Though the two perspectives differ dramatically, both prove that memories are faulty, especially when tainted by nostalgia, gender-bias, and unresolved adolescent emotions.
Non-stop laughs come not just from Jackson’s uproarious script, but also from the cast’s perfect comedic timing and hilarious body language. Under Tom Reing’s fluid rapid-fire direction, Merrylees and Krause make split-second transitions from directly addressing the audience with their versions of the events, to conversing and interacting with each other, to replaying their past relationships, never once missing a beat, a line, or a sight gag. Merrylees is absolutely stellar in his characterizations and flawless in his Scottish accent, Krause is engaging as the 31-year-old Amy who clearly hears the ticking of her biological clock, and all three actors are charismatic and connected, both to each other and to their multiple roles (Horton also portrays a colorful assortment of male and female characters from Tom and Amy’s past).
Inis Nua’s ingenious staging and witty details contribute immeasurably to the visual humor, with a brilliant use of props (by Annie Heath) and lighting (Oona Curley), versatile set design (Meghan Jones), and defining costumes (Maggie Baker). A half-wall in the office rotates to become a tabletop in the bar, as the daylight dims and blue and red club lights glow; a pencil holder on Tom’s desk becomes a shared soda sipped by high-school sweethearts through two pencil-straws; and stacked cardboard boxes of paperwork are rearranged to form a double bed in Amy’s apartment. The drab brown-and-white office attire of the unhappily ‘dating’ couple contrasts with the new-age scarf, ruffled skirt, and sandals of the ever-smiling Sasha, and Horton makes a quick-change from female to male by conveniently pulling up the hood of her sweatshirt.
Everything in this side-splitting production works—the writing, the acting, the direction, and the artistic design. It is one of the most entertaining shows of the season, by a playwright to watch and a company that never fails to impress.
MY ROMANTIC HISTORY
by D.C. Jackson
Directed by Tom Reing
February 5-24, 2013
Inis Nua Theatre Company
Off-Broad Street Theater
at First Baptist Church
1636 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
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