You could be forgiven for rolling your eyes at the biography of These Old Shoes director Diogo Lopes, who declares himself “interested in finding a pure theatrical language through the discovery and implementation of the Clown state, where playfulness is paramount.” However, Transatlantic Love Affair—the company Lopes founded with his wife Isabel Nelson—demonstrates just how sublime the Clown state can be.
I missed the company’s most recent show, last year’s Fringe blockbuster Ash Land (fortunately, it’s being revived in February at Illusion Theater), but I was an enthusiastic fan of the couple’s first two fringe shows, Ballad of the Pale Fisherman (2010) and Red Resurrected (2011). Nelson took the lead in creating those two shows; Ash Land and These Old Shoes were both “conceived and directed” by Lopes, while also bearing the credit (as do all Transatlantic Love Affair shows) “created by the ensemble.”
The plot of These Old Shoes is so conventional as to be hackneyed: an old man wistfully recalled a young love he lost when the two were separated by war. The company handles this material with such peerless grace, however, that the show is utterly captivating from beginning to end. The players wear the company’s trademark style of minimalist physical theater like the eponymous old shoes: comfortably and proudly.
There’s much to enjoy here: the subtle details of performance, whether the performers are playing overstuffed easy chairs or gossipy residents of a retirement community. Transitions between scenes are seamless, and the performers’ transformations between young and aged versions of themselves are very moving. MVP is Dustin Tessier, who underlines every scene with subtle guitar work.
Fringe newcomers may hear about Transatlantic Love Affair and wonder whether the company is worth the hype. The answer remains, firmly, yes: the quality of work that has made the company into a Fringe juggernaut has not been compromised by the shows’ richly-deserved success.
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