I was invited to a preview of Love Is My Sin, the new production from Peter Brook and Theater for a New Audience, currently at the Duke on 42nd Street. It is a series of interconnected sonnets, performed by Michael Pennington and Natasha Parry.
At just under one hour, with little in the way of embellishment, Brook offers us something that feels at the same time quaint and rebellious. A rug, four chairs, two tables, two books, a piano and a leaflet: that's it. Franck Krawczyk performs the music onstage, less an active participant than a part of the production's trappings. I couldn't help but feel unsettled by it. Criticized? Questioned? Why do I stuff my own plays with so much jabber?
Love is my Sin isn't a monumental experience, a piece of theater intended to shatter or shake up. It's, instead, a meditation in the purest sense of that word. Think about this, it says. Enjoy this. I did and I did.
It also made me realize that when seeing new works, I have gotten so used to the strain to impress, to make an impression, that I don't notice it anymore. Young writers, myself included, reach for the audience with every word. There's a muscularity to it. A competitiveness. A sense of urgency and ambition. Even at its most hidden, it's there.
Here, that strain is missing and it just made me breathe a little more deeply in the room. Not only because Shakespeare has nothing to prove (and neither, for that matter, does Peter Brook) but because there's not a moment in the piece that is more than it needs to be, or is even wantonly underplayed for its own sake. The moments are as they should be, the performances light but not weightless, the proceedings comfortable without ever feeling unimportant.
I don't feel the need to expound on the virtues of Shakespeare's sonnets. All I can say is that I was moved by the experience, and I heartily recommend seeing this. Even if only to contrast it with the hurlyburly of the average theater-going experience.
Love Is My Sin runs until April 17.
- Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.