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Love and long held beliefs are never cut and dried matters of the heart. French philosopher Michel De Montaigne once observed, “Obstinacy and heat in sticking to one’s opinions is the surest proof of stupidity.” While stupidity might be too pejorative  ,  there is certainly shortsightedness in  holding so tightly to a long held belief that it alienates those around you.  Two current off Broadway offerings are wrestling with these themes, but only one of them is painting with a brush of realism.

Would You Still Love Me If... Photo by Len Prince
Would You Still Love Me If… Photo by Len Prince

In Would You Still Love Me If…., A lesbian couple, Addison (Rebecca Brooksher) and Danya (Sofia Jean Gomez) are just about to adopt a baby. That, in itself, is breaking news to Danya, a lawyer with her own secret to share.  The secret? She   would like to be become a man. All of her life she has struggled to find comfort within her own body and as much as she adores Addison, she can no longer live with herself by lying to others. Danya consults Dr. Gerard (Roya Shanks), a prickly expert in the field of gender reassignment. Meanwhile, Danya’s mother, Victoria (Kathleen Turner) meddles in the proceedings. Thank heavens for Turner, who also jumped in as a last minute director for the piece. She’s really the only one bringing grounded, dramatic weight to the role, even though her character seems to

John S. Anastasi’s play is well intended, but there is so much drama packed in at every turn that it just seems implausible. In addition, it often drifts into soap opera territory and, as much as we wish to emphasize and connect with the players, they all appear like characters from a telenovela. It does force an introspective question though:  How much compassion and understanding  are we  willing to give under the extreme circumstances of our own personal relationships?  The curiosity that is sparked, though, doesn’t seem worthy of the 90 minute commitment,

As theater becomes more and more of a fertile ground for progressive themes, it’s encouraging to see a work that isn’t afraid to dive head first into this difficult topic . It’s just a shame that there isn’t more depth in the water.

Hard Love. Photo by Clark Kim.
Hard Love. Photo by Clark Kim.

Further down the street, playwright Motti Lerner is grappling with faith with much clearer accuracy in his two-hander, Hard Love. Director Scott Alan Evans helms this play about Hannah (Victoria Mack) and Zvi (Ian Kahn) a once married couple who  resided an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Jersusalem. Twenty years later, personal circumstances reunite them and both are forced to admit romantic feelings and discuss their religious differences between one another.

Hard Love. Photo by Clark Kim.
Hard Love. Photo by Clark Kim.

Lerner’s play often paints Zvi, who has now denounced his belief in Judaism, as a bit unlikable. His adamancy for having Hannah join him on anti-religion mission makes him look like more of a jerk. Hannah’s every action is guided by her own unbending Dogma. Still, we see a portrait of two well meaning lovers who are coming to terms with themselves and their worldviews.   It’s not unlike Playwrights Horizons’  marvelous, recent production of Lucas Hnath’s  The Christians which proves that doctrine can either be a life-saving rope or a noose or destruction.  Both plays give us reason to deeply question the purpose of our spirituality-either the presence or absence-and how that affects our daily interactions.  For that, I say, “Amen!”

Hard Love. Photo by Clark Kim.
Hard Love. Photo by Clark Kim.

 

Would You Still Love Me If….  plays at New World Stages (West 50th between 8th and 9th aves. For tickets and  more info, visit http://www.wouldyoustilllovemeiftheplay.com

 

Hard Love plays at Theater Row (West 42nd between 9th and 10th). For tickets and more info, visit: Hard Love Play