“Love Like Tuesday,” playing at the Capital Hill Arts Workshop, is a tightly choreographed and seamless world premiere under the direction of Francesca Chilcote and movement coach Kathryn Zoerb (also the Faction of Fools Theatre Company Co-Artistic Directors). Written by Doug Robinson, in collaboration with the Faction of Fools, this play is done in the Commedia dell’Arte style, derived from the stagecraft that flourished in Renaissance Italy—and the Faction of Fools speciality.
…a tightly choreographed and seamless world premiere…“Love Like Tuesday” makes it worth the trip to Capital Hill Arts Workshop.
Commedia is very physical and often improvised and highlights the performer over the play. In the 1500s, masked actors would be given a loose outline of a story. They would then collaborate to produce a play by improvising within that framework. Plays were often unique for each performance as actors had license to add jokes, dialogue, or physical gags as they deemed appropriate for the scenario being presented. Credited with giving rise to professional acting and modern theatre, remnants of Commedia can be seen in silent screen actors such as Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, and in the antics of minstrel shows, clowns, and mimes.
“Love Like Tuesday” honors this art form by following it very well. All of the four character categories of Commedia are represented here—lots of young lovers looking for prom dates; an old man in the form of a crotchety principal; servants, like the strange but wise sea-faring janitor; the lovelorn nursing home attendant; and finally, Doreen, the lunch lady, as the person in charge.
The masks worn after the first scene make the play. Designed by Tara Cariaso of Waxing Moon Masks, they closely mirror the actor’s features but are exaggerated and, at times, grotesque. The actors’ amplified movements, often speaking directly to the audience, and wearing masks that hide their expressions, all make the play read like a life-sized Punch and Judy show.
The play centers around Doreen Dawkins (forcefully played by Mary Myers), the unflappable lunch lady who is so beloved that she wins the title of homecoming king and queen for saving the prom from being canceled. The routine drama of her high school workplace swirls around her in a controllable fashion until her own former high school crush shows up as a long-term substitute. She instantly becomes as silly and girlish as the young teen lovers around her.
Throw in a broken oven, an ailing mother, a caregiver secretly pining for her, a disappointing first date with her crush and Doreen’s suddenly out-of-control life forces her to contemplate the true nature of love. Is it the feeling of puffing up like a soufflé, like fireworks, or is it the steady, reliable love, like Tuesday following Monday, that gratifies? There are plenty of examples all around her, but will she learn enough about herself to make the right choices?
The quivering, prevaricating Principal Foggybottom (played by Matthew Pauli) is a standout whose voice and character could have been borrowed from the early days of radio. His turn as the salty Silver is comedic gem. Doreen’s former high school crush, Cameron Noodle, is also wonderful. Played by Danny Cackley, he is a blustery, self-assured picture of success until Doreen makes him realize he can’t live in the past.
The actors who play teens in this show are exhaustingly energetic and chameleon-like as they switch from one character to the next. Jasmine Proctor and Jordan Essex show their great range as they play three parts each, and Bri Houtman as Jill is the anxiety of youth personified.
Andrew Quilpa as Orson is heartbreaking in his devotion to his job and dedication to Doreen. As Annette, Kathryn Zoerb is too true to life for comfort as she complains and farts her way through Doreen’s visits.
The set of “Love Like Tuesday,” designed by Johnny Weissgerber, looks like a tissue paper art project explosion has just gone off. Closer examination reveals the outlines of school lockers lining the walls of the 20 foot stage. The lockers also cleverly serve as doors, windows, counters, and a coffee machine. The tricky lighting design (by William D’Eugenio) is perfectly timed for moving targets and quickly changing areas of focus on the stage.
Commedia dell’arte may be a new experience for some and “Love Like Tuesday” makes it worth the trip to Capital Hill Arts Workshop.
Running time: Two hours and 20 minutes with one 10-minute intermission.
Advisory: Family friendly but contains some PG-13 humor.
“Love Like Tuesday” runs through March 11, 2021 at Capital Hill Art Workshop, 545 7th St. SE, Washington, D.C. 20003. Performances begin promptly at their scheduled time. Open captioned performances on Thursday, 3/2 at 7:30 pm; Friday, 3/3 at 7:30pm; and Saturday, 3/4 2 pm & 7:30 pm. For more information and tickets, please call 202-547-6839 or go online. A medical mask is required in the theatre.