Anthony Nielson is a playwright who revels in pushing the boundaries of what is comfortable for an audience to watch. So, fair warning here, if Aunt Mae is in town from Des Moines and wants to see some theatre, you might want to give “Stitching” a wide berth, unless the old gal’s into rough language, rough sex, and some particularly stinging mental images. The twisted relationship that Nielson’s two characters share is not entirely pleasant to watch – it’s a bit like having a chunk of gristle stuck between your back teeth. But in trying to work it out, you’ll find it extremely difficult to forget.
John Ventimiglia and Meital Dohan play Stu and Abby, Nielson’s battling, unhappy couple. Dohan does commendable work here in a harsh performance, and Ventimiglia quietly underplays his character’s sadistic tendencies to great effect. Quite appropriately, director Timothy Haskell has his actors transitioning between scenes with costume changes in opposite corners, much like boxers between rounds. The production is beautifully realized with the help of Garin Marshall’s set and an aching, scratchy score by composer Daron Murphy. Dancing among flashbacks and not-quite-truth telling, it’s an intriguing puzzle to try to follow along with, and the central issue at stake – reclaiming the past after a deep, deep hurt – is examined under a number of different lights. But while bickering couples with serious issues are nothing new, the essential element of caring about these two characters – and believing that they care about each other, which gives them something worth bickering about – seems to have gone missing here.
“Stitching” performs Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. through April 5th at the Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, Hollywood. Tickets are $25. For information, call (323) 962-7782 or go to www.StitchingThePlay.com