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Lacking Poetry
By James Yeara

First Love
By Charles Mee, directed by Laura Margolis
StageWorks/Hudson, through Nov. 21

StageWorks/Hudson’s regional premiere of Charles Mee’s First Love should be lauded for what it is not: trite and tired theater. This poetic play about two senior citizens meeting, wooing, screwing, fighting, and re-
uniting won’t be seen on other area stages—not until it’s familiar enough to allow for connect-the-dots or cookie-cutter productions to be done. No troupe does theater the way StageWorks/Hudson does, consistently challenging its audience, not pandering to its subscribers.

StageWorks/Hudson’s regional premiere of Charles Mee’s First Love should be castigated for what it is not: a poetic production. Done before Brian Prather’s surreal set—blue sky and white clouds painted on flats and over the door upleft, with an irregular cut-out revealing a cyclorama with a full moon gobo upcenter; boxes and platforms scattered downleft and right, with a stylized water garden downcenter, complete with floating green apples—it doesn’t preserve the poetry that should inform the two elderly characters, Edith (Mary Foskett) and Harold (Ted Pugh). These two should speak as if their lines were heartbeats or breaths. Too often, though, they clunk as if wearing someone else’s shoes or speak as if someone else’s tongue were in their mouths, and that person had neglected to floss.

First Love centers on the rough wooing of the red-haired Edith and the
silver-haired Harold: “Shove up” is the first thing that she says to him, trying to move him from his bench, where he’s trying to sleep. “You want peace, go someplace else,” she screeches to him. “I did go some place else. This is where I went,” Harold reasons. The play doesn’t stint on the sexiness of senior-citizen love: bondage, discipline, roleplaying, toe sucking, all get full play and display here. Those looking for Love Letters should look elsewhere.

The play follows the physical vagaries of love and the vignettes of intimacy between these two (including a clunky scene where Edith is supposed to be throwing china plates that fluttered like paper when she accidentally dropped them). There’s also a nicely symbolic turn by Bethany Caputo as the Woman—variously garbed as a gum-snapping waitress, a chanteuse in a red satin dress, and a spandex temptress—who acts as a muse for the pair.

The playwright has said, “I like plays that are not too neat, too finished, too presentable. My plays are broken, jagged, filled with sharp edges.”
First Love could be that, but
StageWorks/Hudson has dulled the sharp edges, polished the finish, straightened the mess, and thus has cut the poetic heart out of the play. Though a red Cupid in satin or silk or velvet with gossamer wings sings and dances and rollerblades around the lovers, the production is too full of prose, and misses too often Mee’s poetry—but at least Edith and Harold never play cards or engage in the other cliches subscriber panderings too often do.

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