Mixed Blood’s Love Person is startling and evocative—but when the play began, I was skeptical. Several flat panel television screens hung above the stage. A man was reading a poem in Sanskrit, while what I presumed to be the original written Sanskrit trailed across the screens in lovely, impenetrable, script. Three women listened with varying attentiveness (two conversing in ASL) as techno music vibrated softly in the background. At first blush, the play seemed an ambitious and well-meaning mess.
Love Person, a play written by Brennan Kapil and directed by Risa Brainin, presented through March 22 at Mixed Blood Theatre, 1501 S. 4th Street, Minneapolis. For tickets ($11-28), see mixedblood.com.
After an unsteady but promising first scene, however, the play developed into a moving, nuanced, and provocative exploration of language, intimacy, and the real-world landscape of relationships. In addition to Sanskrit characters, the flat screens also provided translations of conversations in ASL and transcripts of late night e-mail conversations. With a deft touch, Aditi Brennan Kapil’s play, through Risa Brainin’s direction, covers the shiny obliviousness of first attraction, filial jealousy, erosion of intimacy, and the connections and estrangements that occur through language.
Maggie (Erin McGovern) and Free (Alexandria Wailes) are credible and affecting as the lesbian couple evaluating a long-term relationship. Free communicates entirely through ASL and wages a passive-aggressive war against the English language, while Maggie—who is not deaf—attempts to integrate the hearing world into her life with Free. The emotional distance pressing on their relationship drives Free to engage in an emotional affair via e-mail with Ram (Rajesh Bose), the new lover of her sister Vic (Jennifer Maren) new lover Ram. Ram believes his e-mail paramour to be the same person with whom he’s sleeping.
Where the play could be agitprop, it is personal. Where it could devolve into melodrama, it is evenhanded and considerate. Where it could be funny and moving and complex, it is. Nayna Ramey (scenic and projections designer) and Michael Klaers (lighting and projections designer), make wonderful use of the stage, using the screens and furniture to shift fluidly between public and private. There are some physical cues and direction that stumbled slightly, but I’m sure these will be ironed out as the production continues.
Love Person is a “rolling world premiere,” supported by the National New Play Network. It will make its debut in April in California and in Indianapolis in July. I recommend you catch it now before it wends its way out of our city.