Never Fall in Love with a Writer- A Melodramatic Mess
I’m not sure how many writers playwright Sterling Lynch has met, but apparently the reason why you should never fall in love with one is because they are simply the greatest, albeit the most selfish, lovers in the world. At least, that seems to be the premise of his new play showcasing at the Ottawa 2013 Fringe Festival. Never Fall in Love with a Writer, directed by Wayne Current and performed by Jennifer Capogreco, is the story within a story about Grace’s love affair with a writer, and her struggle to find a reader for her own writing. In the end, this one woman show falls seriously flat and it’s hard to pinpoint which link is the weakest one: the script, the acting, or the directing.
Lynch’s script tends to overly romanticize the persona of the writer, more specifically, the male writer. They are characterized as Don Juan personalities who are such skilled lovers that they absolutely ruin you for any man that comes after them. This stereotype seemed a trifle ridiculous and outdated, not to mention a little sexist. The debate that focuses on the importance of the reader to a writer has potential to be interesting, but the arguments just became repetitive and circular. I don’t know how many times I heard “The reader is dead, Grace” without any qualifying sort of statement or any reasonable rebuttal, that it made me question if the playwright had meant to reference Roland Barthes’ “Death of the Author” theory instead. I would say that the script is probably the strongest of the three aspects, but the overall tone of the production, unfortunately, gives the text the feeling of a smutty novel.
Jennifer Capogreco certainly has a lovely and commanding presence on stage. However, this is not her best work by far. Characters were weak and static, only being differentiated from one another by doing the same hand gesture every single time: for example, Amy always had her hands in her pockets and Grace always has her left hand on her hip and her right hand at her neckline. There is no variety in voice, posture, or centre of gravity. This made it difficult to be certain as to who was who.
The most infuriating character transition happens between Grace and her lover Samuel, the writer. The only thing that these two characters have in contrast is that Samuel always holds a pencil when he’s talking (because he’s a writer, get it?). Capogreco, when not portraying Samuel, keeps this pencil in her back pants’ pocket. When there is any sort of dialogue between Grace and Samuel, the quick transitions lead the performer to be constantly reaching for her back pocket, whether it’s taking the pencil out or putting it back, which made the transitions look messy. However, it is unfair to lay all the blame on the actor.
This leads me to directing. I have to say, I was confused by many of the things I saw on stage: The bookshelf and the set pieces on stage right seemed unnecessary as they are hardly ever touched; the entire black box stage is lit for almost the full show, but the action mainly happens upstage centre; when there is movement it is often unmotivated or hovers around the stage left block with the typewriter; there are no pauses built in to the text for the performer to live in which led to a lot of rushed and garbled lines; etc.
Ultimately, there is just no clear directorial vision for this piece. Is it a memory play? Or was it supposed to focus more on the storytelling? Or maybe it was the moral of the story that was supposed to come through. In any case, Never Fall in Love with a Writer doesn’t fully achieve any of these things and what you end up with is a convoluted stage play where the best part is the original song written for the production played during the preshow (shout out to Shannon Rose and the Thorns).
Never Fall in Love with a Writer
Written by Sterling Lynch
Directed by Wayne Current
Performed by Jennifer Capogreco