Tuesday, March 19, 2013

To Birth or Not to Birth


A Simple, Complex “Lungs” Challenges at Arts Garage

By Skip Sheffield

To procreate or not to procreate, that is the question in “Lungs,” a new play by Duncan Macmillan, running through April 14 at Arts garage, 180 N.W. First St., Delray Beach.
“Lungs” is pure theater at is barest and least gimmicky. There are no sets, furniture, costumes or fancy lighting. It’s just two young people on stage, a man and a woman, talking in a torrent that moves through place and time.
The characters are not even given names. They are simply designated by letters. W (Betsey Graver) is a PhD candidate and deep thinker. You could call her a worry-wart.
M (Cliff Burgess) is less inclined to introspection or over-philosophizing. It is M who gets the ball rolling while waiting in line at an IKEA showroom by suggesting to W perhaps it is time for them to have a baby. The couple has been living together, and as M points out, they are not getting any younger.
You might have thought M suggested they jump blindly off a cliff together. W is a woman who stresses over everything. Her speech is halting and contradictory; her emotions carom about like a random billiard ball.
“Lungs” lives outside traditional marriage relationships or strict moral rules. The couple may be in love, but it is examined clinically, like a virus. There are a million reasons why a sane couple should not bring a new human to Planet Earth. There are also a million reasons why they should. I puzzled at length what Macmillan meant by the title “Lungs.” At first I thought it meant the characters talk a lot. Then as the play progressed in its zigzag, abrupt-turn fashion, I honed in on a bit of dialogue in which W, in bemoaning pollution and deteriorating environment, notes just how much toxic carbon footprint each new human brings to the atmosphere.
“Lungs” is also about the volatile nature of male-female relations. As rational as W is, she is subject to jealousy and spite. As calm as M is, he is not immune to reckless, thoughtless and destructive behavior.
To me “Lungs” is an examination of the nature of passion. Intense passion is by definition illogical. It is devastating and beautiful at the same time. That Duncan Macmillan was able to capture something so inexplicable in mere words is amazing. That Betsey Graver, Cliff Burgess and director Louis Tyrrell are able to convey this dangerous tight-rope of joy, laughter and abject despair in just 85 minutes with no tricks, nothing up the sleeve, no fakey razzle-dazzle, is nothing short of miraculous. If you have ever loved deeply, and loved and lost, you may feel this play was written just for you.
Performances are 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday (no Saturday evening). Tickets are $30-$40. Call 561-450-6357.

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