Screwed Into the Book of Love

Local Arts Reviews

Screwed Into the Book of Love

Hyde Park Theatre, through May 15

Running time: 1 hr, 30 min

Love tangles up hair in difficult knots, compulsively eats the most divine chocolate cake with double fudge icing made by the world's best chef, decorates parties with gaudy colors embarrassing friends, yanks lovers into quicksand. Love dissolves itself into an untouchable mist, grates on nerves like the sound of metal scraping metal, masquerades as power or wonders at a newborn babe.

Love is more than a metaphor.

Love shapes itself in monologues stitched together using the Bedlam Faction's collective efforts and an original script by Chronicle Arts Listings Editor Wayne Alan Brenner. Screwed Into the Book of Love is an ambling journey through a maze of situations built upon the effects and circumstances of love. There are no character names, so each person is identified through story. The tales are staged in particular situations and places – bar, park, bedroom, birthday party, wedding – with other players as silent listeners and watchers. Simple set boxes and chairs are shifted around to suggest the chosen settings, and these no-frills scene changes work quite well. The large cast provides great opportunities for actors to portray multiple characters and share their anecdotes: how a couple falls in love, how a man proposes to a woman, how a man is betrayed, how another is baffled by a bimbo, how to cope with venereal diseases, how to meet your mate online.

The most interesting aspects of this production are the details of these stories. Brenner's articulate script is full of tiny gems: the diamond engagement ring in the Scrabble bag, the comic book titles and names dropped by the geek, the man approaching an elder relative for advice about dating a woman with herpes (and his tragic dilemma of whether to say "no" to love due to that fact), and the sweet coziness of Sunday mornings in bed with a lover.

For a while, I was buying all these hyper-real moments, oftentimes enjoying the tales or one-sided conversations for their nuances and witty observations about human behavior in a place like Austin. Then it occurred to me that Screwed is more like a theatrical presentation of an anthropologist's field data; instead of scribbled notes on the page, there are live, in-person transcripts, as if the scientist had taken a recording device and taped dozens of people sharing something they know about love. This creates dramatic complications. There is no single protagonist to cheer on, except perhaps the fast-talking, obsessive sex kitten in a red dress eternally musing about her big love, "Johnny." She is Love in its most earnest, postmodern, simulated, and cynical form. Her words are full of scientific analogies, trying to describe how she feels for Johnny. The actual text in Love's monologues is intriguing, but the delivery of it is too fast to follow. This might be the point: frenzied passion, so many words, so little time to describe everything. Screwed Into the Book of Love ambitiously stuffs a lot into one show, but it ultimately might be more powerful as a folklorist's novella, where we would have ample time to savor the language and thought.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Arts Reviews
All the Way
All the Way
In Zach Theatre's staging of this epic political drama about LBJ, the fight for civil rights feels particularly urgent

Robert Faires, May 1, 2015

Random Acts of Magic
Random Acts of Magic
The 2015 batch of Out of Ink 10-minute plays is a satisfying buffet of silliness and thoughtfulness

Elizabeth Cobbe, May 1, 2015

More by Heather Barfield Cole
Arts Review
Double Exposure
In Double Exposure, writer/performers Wayne Alan Brenner and David Jewell offer old and new material they've created, and their knack for capturing nuance in the mundane entertains

Nov. 17, 2006

Arts Review
9x9x9
In Randy Wyatt's '9x9x9,' Coda Theater Project offers a kooky thought piece on life / death and the power of God, but a lack of clarity in presentation undercuts some of the fun

May 5, 2006

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Screwed Into the Book of Love, Bedlam Faction, Wayne Alan Brenner

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2018

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle