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Small-plates theater has enjoyed a recent mini-resurgence among brainy absurdists, with the likes of Ethan Coen and Will Eno offering up glib nuggets of determinism. The servings in Love/Stories may be just as small, but the flamboyantly cerebral Itamar Moses never lets you forget who’s doing the plating.
Bemused resignation gives way here to aggressive micromanagement, and Moses’s exactitude has its grating moments: a lengthy pre-show speech recorded by the author himself, a concluding playlet devoted entirely to a stage direction. But the other three pieces (and chunks of that final piece) offer witty, deceptively breezy dissections of what men and women—and playwrights—want.
The title of the play’s centerpiece, Authorial Intent, says it all. A bit of romantic-dramedy naturalism gives way to a beat-by-beat explication of the characters’ objectives and tactics. This sort of emotional storyboarding will be familiar to acting students, but Moses and director Michelle Tattenbaum somehow make the outline just as engaging as the “finished” product.
The five actors navigate the virtuosic text with more or less equal skill, although Michael Micalizzi is most in sync with Moses’s earnest rhythms: “I’m not as smart as my lack of good looks might have you believe,” demurs one of Micalizzi’s characters. Tellingly, he appends this line with “A playwright friend of mine gave me that one.”