The Austin Chronicle

Arts Review

Reviewed by Barry Pineo, July 15, 2005, Arts

The Flu Season

Hyde Park Theatre, through July 30

Running Time: 1 hr, 55 min

You've heard this story before – or perhaps you haven't, but you've heard something like it, most likely. It's about a Man and a Woman. And a Doctor and a Nurse, who also are a man and a woman but not the Man and Woman. They meet, they fall in love – the Man and the Woman, that is. The Doctor and the Nurse fall in love as well. For one couple, there's a happy ending, for the other, a sad one; some would likely say a tragic one. I hope I'm not giving too much away. But if you've heard this story before, I can't be giving anything away.

Unless you haven't heard it.

The story also has a Prologue and an Epilogue, who appear, surprisingly enough, before every scene and who place the story squarely outside the real. The P & E are time-tested literary devices, useful for establishing time and place, condensing whole scenes, especially those containing exposition, down to neat little snippets of backstory, and tying up loose ends, should any arise. The P & E are nattily dressed in tuxedo shirts and bow ties, although the Epilogue's shirt is undone, his tie askew, he's unshaven, and his scant clown make-up is smeary. Which reflects his state of mind: He's a pessimist. And the carefully dressed Prologue, naturally, is an optimist, a young, large man with a loud, resonant voice. Everyone in this play has a loud resonant voice, probably because the director, Jeff Griffin, asked them to. It fits the style of the play, which is impressionistic. Will Eno is the playwright's name, and his play is difficult, consistently presenting thesis alongside antithesis, jumping off in a lot of different directions while focusing on the subjects of love, time, memory, storytelling, and the nature of the real.

Oh, I forgot to mention that the Man and the Woman are patients at the Crossroads Psychiatric Hospital or some such institution with a similar name. It's a blue, gray, and white place, with rows of squares hanging symmetrically on the walls and soft light emanating from behind them. Light also enters through the panes of a large window (or are those bars?). A fireplace dominates the center of the stage, but no fire ever burns within it. It's a cold place, but the people are warm. Most of the time.

The play begins in the fall and ends in the spring – thus the title. Many of the poets with whom I am acquainted liken love to a sickness. Many liken it to a blessing as well. Time sweeps by (that's not the right word, but it'll have to do). Laundry must be done. Pictures taken. Books read. What happened yesterday most certainly happened then, but has ceased happening now, although this production will be playing at Hyde Park Theatre for a little while longer, so you can still attend. In this case at least, the Championship Theatre Group deserves its name. The play emptied me and filled me with sadness. I understood what was happening, I just didn't understand why, but I think I understand this at least: Everything must be lost before anything can begin again.

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