Home > Broadway Buzz > Show Reviews > Cagelove February 11 , 2007
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by Rob Kendt

©2006 Sandra Coudert
Gillian Jacobs &
Daniel Eric Gold in Cagelove
Drama is all about the stakes: how much we care what's going to happen next. To care what happens to characters—like, say the marginally messed-up triangle of twentysomethings at the heart of Christopher Denham's new play Cagelove—affection is not required. Empathy is nice but not absolutely necessary. But credibility is a deal breaker: If we don't believe their struggles or feel their angst as anything more than a playwright's playthings, then we're not buying.

Alas, very few of the notes Denham strikes in Cagelove ring true, despite the attentive, indeed perhaps too loyal, direction of fellow playwright Adam Rapp. Denham presents the purportedly engaged Sam (Daniel Eric Gold) and Katie (Gillian Jacobs), who seem more like roommates than lovers. They don't appear to share much except pop-culture references and the annoying but theatrically convenient habit of suddenly shoving off or otherwise breaking off tense discussions so that fights remain unwon and questions unresolved. While one is out cooling off, the other is likely to stay home and stew over a bottle until the first one returns and they can have it out, again.

We must take it on faith, in other words, that he, a rising e-commerce executive, and she, a fine-art photographer with a mile-wide wild streak, are madly in love and utterly simpatico镄or at least that they were, until her volatile ex-boyfriend raped her.

Though we can never quite see them as a couple, even in imagined retrospect, the play and the production are convincingly nuanced in depicting their tentative, painful renegotiation of intimacy after such a violent intrusion. Every amorous gesture almost immediately feels wrong, like too much too soon or too little too late, and both Gold and Jacobs chafe heartbreakingly at the viciousness of this cycle.

But Cagelove falters in its attempt to peel back the layers of this impasse for its root causes, and the home remedy it suggests is arguably worse than the disease. It's not good for a play intended to sweep us headlong from suspense to horror to revelation that simple matters of plot throw up so many speed bumps—mostly having to do with Katie's sketchiness about the rape, some pesky stray evidence and the comings and goings of the increasingly obsessive, possessive Sam.

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A third wheel, Katie's middle-class sister Ellen (Emily Cass McDonnell), shows up periodically to provide backstory and an easy target for contempt, with her box of Franzia wine and her middle-class fixation on Sam's success. I was waiting for a twist here, another facet of the play's interests to shine on this slow-burning irritant; but if it came, McDonnell must have swallowed it up in her bottomless
©2006 Sandra Coudert
Emily Cass McDonnell &
Daniel Eric Gold in Cagelove
deadpan, which gives a deliciously blunt snap to a few one-liners but ultimately resembles nothing so much as a novocaine overdose.

Rapp's play Red Light Winter, currently running at the Barrow Street Theatre with Denham in the lead, has similar holes and contrivances, and similar blind spots in its male-centered, penitential vision of sexual violence. But there's an immediacy to that play's danger and uncertainty that makes us forget or dismiss any quibbles, at least until we're out the theater door.

Denham's studied effort never attains that kind of hold on our attention. There are many scene blackouts in the intermissionless work that give us time to ponder what we just saw and to guess what the playwright wants us to feel about it. Ultimately we have to guess, because Denham hasn't quite made us feel it.

Written by Christopher Denham
Directed by Adam Rapp
Rattlestick Theatre

Print This Story / Send the Story to a Friend / 5/17/2006 4:47:00 PM


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