It’s those little grievances, left unresolved, that can turn a loving couple into the Bickersons. That comes through loud, clear, and in charged silences throughout Jessica Willoughby’s “Apples and Oranges.”
Dana and Rex are the young marrieds in question. Two pairs of actors play them, one deaf (Sandra Mae Frank and Lance Hall) and one hearing (Amanda Zeitler and Jack Powers).
All four performers show strong comic and dramatic abilities, but Willoughby’s rambling script doesn’t always serve them well, nor does the staging. Still, the show’s premise can’t help but intrigue.
The opening scene plays out in silence as the deaf Dana and Rex sign furiously. Then they leave the stage, and the hearing Dana and Rex play the same scene aloud.
Scenes don’t always follow the same pattern. Some unfold consecutively, first with deaf and then hearing actors, or vice versa, but not always. Later in the play, director Tim Chamberlain or another interpreter might pop up and give the hearing audience a simultaneous translation of the American Sign Language being used. At various moments, the deaf and hearing actors might acknowledge one another and interact. At other times, they don’t.
Now and then, a deaf or hearing couple will sit at the edge of the stage and address the audience. That could mean they’re talking to their unseen couples counselor, but it could also mean they’re just talking to the audience and seeking a bit of participation.
This structure starts to seem random and confusing. And the issues at stake between Dana and Rex lack consequence. You want them to build into something larger. The concept behind “Apples and Oranges” has potential, but the script and staging feel incomplete.
Apples and Oranges
by Jessica Willoughby. Directed by Tim Chamberlain and presented by MO2 Productions. About 85 minutes. Through Sunday at Capital Fringe Festival, performed at Gallaudet University. Visit www.capfringe.org.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.