The latest from the Flux Theatre Ensemble is a sensitively written play about dealing with loss and guilt. During their spring break from college, lovers Kelly and Tracy (Alisha Spielmann) travel to Colombia to help the U’wa Indians organize against an American oil company. There, a horrific tragedy befalls the young women.
“Sans Merci,” written by Johnna Adams and masterfully directed by Heather Cohn, begins years later when Tracy’s mom, Elizabeth, seeks out Kelly to find out what happened to her daughter. All the action takes place in Kelly’s apartment in Los Angeles as Elizabeth arrives unannounced from Chicago one rainy evening. Mother and lover skirt the hard questions about what happened in Colombia, until Kelly finally reveals all, with the help of flashbacks.
While Susan Ferrara does very well as the grief-stricken, sarcastic, Republican mother, it is Rachael Hip-Flores who truly shines as Kelly, the guilt-ridden survivor who wishes none of it ever happened. As the conversation between Kelly and Elizabeth unfolds slowly and stiltedly, both mother and audience piece together the events of that fateful spring break in Colombia.
At the same time, Elizabeth is trying to come to terms with her daughter’s “perverse” sexual preferences. It’s hard for her to wrap her head around them, and she is decidedly awkward about it: “You know, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a lesbian apartment before,” she tells Kelly, whose response is good-humored: “The apartment’s asexual. I’m the lesbian.”
Elizabeth then runs through her stereotypes of what she expected a “lesbian apartment” to look like: “More flags like the one I got in the mail — hanging in the doorways, used as curtains, serving as tablecloths. Perhaps artwork featuring large pink triangles. Certainly framed adoring photos of Ellen DeGeneres. Some of those strap-on dildos you see people wear on HBO’s ‘Real Sex,’ perhaps hung casually from all the doorknobs.”
As the conversation progresses, both Elizabeth and Kelly manage to find some common ground, and the exchange ends up being cathartic for the grieving women, as well as for the audience. We get the feeling that despite it all, Kelly might eventually be okay.
“Sans Merci” continues May 3, 5, 7, 8, 11, 16 and 17 at 7:30 pm, and May 4 and 12 at 2:30 pm at the Fourth Street Theatre, 83 East Fourth Street (between Bowery and Second Avenue); tickets $18 at www.fluxtheatre.org