It can be tough to be married. It can be tough to be a playwright. And, it can be tough to figure out just what the heck is going on in "The Late Wedding" by Christopher Chen, as staged by The Pear Theatre.
Here's a tip to make it -- maybe -- a little easier to understand: The seven-person cast of multiple characters and its various interconnected vignettes are all tied to the same painful breakup, creating what Chen calls "a fractured portrait of a fractured marriage," according to the show's program notes.
Chen, inspired by the work of writer Italo Calvino, goes wild: playing with time, space, gender, point of view and connections, with actors portraying mostly failing relationships — men with women, men with men, women with women. The couples have different memories, different understandings, different goals. It is the stuff of which separations are made.
And, sometimes, in the middle of a dialogue, the playwright will make notes to himself, such as breaking off from an argument to say "Insert pro-Wall-Street monologue."
The stated locations change from a living room with a Scrabble board to a spaceship to a rudimentary boat with no oars, food or destination in mind, as the couple inside it struggle to understand each other.
In a way, it is fascinating, even admirable, although I did not find it entertaining. It is indeed fractured, and more an intellectual puzzle than a play.
The Pear is delivering "The Late Wedding" in three ways, in order to accommodate patrons' various comfort and access levels: On Friday evenings and Saturday mornings, it is performed inside the theater. A livestream of the Friday night show is available to people who want to watch from home (not available on demand). For Saturday and Sunday matinees, it is performed outdoors, on a stage tucked away in the side parking lot of the Mountain View theater space.
I saw the opening-night livestream which offered some cleverness -- no doubt thanks to Director Sinohui Hinojosa -- and some technical sloppiness.
The sound mix was tragically bad, ranging from deafening loudness to weak levels that made dialogue very difficult to hear. The camera framing was mostly good, helped by effective lighting, but often the top of the frame stopped just under actors' noses. Those weaknesses may be cleaned up by the next showtimes.
The good cast does well in delivering the cerebral maze of the script. Tyler Jeffreys, Carissa Ratanaphanyarat and John S. Boles were the most solid in their various roles.
Annamarie MacLeod, as narrator, gets a few good jokes, and comes out early to welcome the audience by thanking everybody for getting vaccinated and wearing their masks, saying she is "proud to be part of the first live, in-person play at The Pear after the pandemic shutdown."
Well, welcome back.
"The Late Wedding" runs Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. through July 18 at 1110 La Avenida St., Mountain View, and streams online Friday evenings. Tickets are $30-$40. More information is available at thepear.org.
Email Contributing Writer John Orr at [email protected]