Lead performances cure ‘Infinite Ache’

By Penny Rathbun, Staff Writer
Monday, January 28, 2008 11:34 AM CST

Rover Dramawerks’ current production of “An Infinite Ache” is the story of Every Couple telescoped into 90 minutes.

Boy meets girl. Girl strings him along, but they get married anyway. Boy and girl have a baby. Boy and girl have a tragedy. Boy and girl live their lives together until one of them dies.

Pay close attention to this show. It doesn’t stop to explain anything. David Schulner’s script makes transitions and scene changes without telling you. Sometimes the lighting and music will tell you that Every Couple has moved on. And sometimes it just takes the audience’s attention to detail to realize that a line or two of dialogue has lurched the characters forward another decade.

That can be a bug or a feature, depending on whether or not the playgoer’s preference is laundry list storytelling for every play.

With Lisa Devine’s direction it is possible to keep up with the action of “An Infinite Ache.” Her interpretation keeps the audience engaged in what must be a very difficult play on paper to figure out. Devine figures it out for the audience to the point where watching this show is a bit like watching two evenly matched teams play basketball.

Speaking of evenly matched, Hope and Charles are played by two actors that deliver performances that make the whole evening worthwhile.

Clayton Shane Farris plays Charles, a sort of Every Nerd. It takes a while to warm up to him when he brings Hope home after the first date. Bumbling nerd becomes even more bumbling in the presence of cute, sophisticated Hope. When he puts on a tape of music he has put together for his historical writing he really gets into it while Hope decides she has a headache.

Charles almost appears to be suffering from borderline Asperger’s syndrome and their future doesn’t look bright.

Farris makes nerdy Charles a complete person, one that is worth getting to know throughout the rest of the play. As the relationship develops Charles loses most of his nerdiness. With Hope’s help he gains social skills. Farris navigates Charles through all of this adroitly.

As Hope, Debbie Cheng portrays the modern woman with intensity and just the right amount of cuteness. She is better at the courtship dance than he is, but Hope’s friends surely were asking each other, “What does she see in him?”

Hope may not know the answer to that herself. Cheng extricates that and every other nuance from the character with precision.

Together Farris and Cheng deliver an exciting game. Cheng makes most of her costume changes on stage while it looks like something else is going on. That’s fun to watch.

Lighting and sound are well-matched to the script.