Theater Review: MMF at Silver Meteor

Ryan Bernier directs a contemporary play about a bizarre love triangle.

3 out of 5 stars
Runs through Oct. 19 at Silver Meteor Gallery,
8 p.m. Fridays-Mondays Oct. 9-12, 16-19; $15, $12 students and seniors;
2213 E. Sixth Ave., Ybor City, 813-300-3585.

As sexuality becomes more complex in these vertiginous times, there’s greater room for confusion than ever. Consider the relationships in MMF, David L. Kimple’s likable play currently showing at the Silver Meteor Gallery. Dean and Michael and Jane live together, sleep together, share meals, drinks and arguments. But maybe three is an unstable number: sometimes Michael only loves Jane but is in love with Dean; and sometimes Jane can’t make it work with Dean because of a mysterious encounter between Dean and Michael that nobody will articulate. Is satisfaction possible when your Lego parts fit both genders? Will this love trio have to give way to a duo?

It would be inaccurate to say that MMF goes very far in examining such questions. In fact, the play is rather thin, bringing us a few short opening scenes and then one mid-size hashing out of the issues roiling Dean, Jane and Michael. Still, Kimple’s dialogue is always believable, and all three characters are so genial, you can’t help but wish them well. Perhaps the most interesting is Jane, played with near-perfect passion by the talented Brianna Larson. Larson’s Jane is a problem-solver facing what may be an insoluble problem. Michael has deserted Dean and her, propelled by some event that Dean refuses to describe. So she tries to make the match with Dean alone work, but his mind is clearly elsewhere, probably on his missing lover. Jane does what she can: stripping to her underthings at key moments, cajoling and dissembling when quieter reasoning gets nowhere, this is a woman determined to salvage some sort of romance from at least one of her paramours. Thanks to Larson’s fine performance, we always feel Jane’s fear of loneliness and growing desperation.

As Dean, Johnny Garde also offers us a persuasive impersonation. Garde’s Dean is a man who’s broken one of the crucial rules that sustain the triad, and his task is to keep this news from Jane long enough to restore the shattered equilibrium. Dean is a wiry, cagey figure, who started his liaison with Michael by falling into his lap — accidentally or not — when they were both passengers on an airplane, and still has his family believing that he and Jane are only roommates. When he finally describes what transpired between Michael and him to the astonished Jane, he only tells half the story, as befits a wily guy whose connection to the truth is so provisional, he himself doesn’t always know what he feels. And in fact, that’s what makes Garde’s Dean fun to watch: his bisexuality may make him a divided soul, but his deceitfulness multiplies the resulting confusion exponentially. You’d have to be a statistician to predict with whom he’ll end up.

Will it be Michael? Neil Pepi plays this part with an understatedness that at first seems a problem in the acting, but over time grows more and more impressive as a deliberate choice. The passivity that Pepi’s Michael shows is always in tension with the character’s decisiveness: on the one hand, he seems too quiet and inward to make waves, on the other, he’s the one who steps out on the ménage and threatens its survival. If Dean has a secret, Michael has a bigger one: the tendency of his heart, the identity of his true love. Michael even dresses differently than the two casually attired others: wearing a tie and vest (designed by Larson), hiding his face behind glasses and a beard, he’s inscrutable until the very last — and maybe even then. Good luck to anyone determined to love this enigma.

The drama takes place on a set representing a small New York efficiency (designed by Michael A. Murphy) with sofa bed on one side, kitchen cabinets on the other. As the Silver Meteor space itself has an economical look, this set with these furnishings feels just right for this play; and no doubt, the three characters barely manage to make the rent. Ryan Bernier’s direction emphasizes flesh-and-blood naturalism; what’s especially winning is his treatment of the sexuality bonding the characters as only one item among the many that create their connection. Which is another way of saying, there’s nothing the least bit pornographic about MMF; slight as it is, it’s always serious about the difficulty of loving. And whether the love-group at issue is made up of three or of two, that’s a subject we all have reason to ponder.

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