First Love
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by David Allen

Ever wonder what might have happened if Romeo and Juliet didn’t meet each other for the first time until they were in their 60s? Well, go see Charles Mee’s First Love, now playing at the Magic Theatre and you’ll get a taste of at least one possibility.

Mee writes a little like a modern day Shakespeare, with dialogue that can stand alone as a kind of philosophical monologue, for which he is sometimes criticized as being preachy. But like Shakespeare, the poetry of Mee’s language moves his words into another realm of the senses intermingling with the spiritual to raise questions there are no absolute answers to. Couple this with some surprisingly innovative dramatic and scenic images and excellent acting by Joan Mankin and Robert Parnell and you have a thought-provoking theatre experience which is also full of comedy and sheer sensual delight.

The entire set design has a dreamy cloud motif that helps the audience move into the awake dream-like atmosphere of Edith (Mankin) and Harold’s (Parnell) life. Both have been married before and raised families, but neither have ever allowed themselves to fall in love, with complete acceptances of the pain and melancholy of love as well as its many joys. Both characters have been sufficiently battered by life to allow them to risk everything in a wild abandon that allows the audience to laugh at the many similarities they see in their own lives.

Mee compares his writing to a painter that focuses on different variations of the same theme. There are landscape painters, portrait painters, etc. Mee, in all his plays, paints the complex ever-changing canvas of man/woman relationships through immediate and historical time and ironically acknowledges that his theme is timeless.

For tickets or more information call (415) 441-8822 or visit www.magictheatre.org.

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