Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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Drunk Enough to Say I Love You?

March 24, 2008

Scott Cohen and Samuel West
Photo: Joan Marcus 2008

No, not really. In fact I’m not sure that anyone could consume enough alcohol to make them love Caryl Churchill’s one-act play currently in its US premiere at the Public Theater in New York. However, as is usually the case, a little social lubrication could make it easy to have a brief fling with the show. Churchill’s two-hander uses the impetuous affair between two men as a metaphor for the US seduction of Britain over the last few years in foreign policy and specifically the Iraq war. Guy, played by Samuel West, has left his wife and family to be with Sam, played by Scott Cohen. However, after the first few minutes the dialog swerves from affairs of the heart to affairs of state making it clear that Sam, the American, has much more on his mind. The entire forty-minute play is delivered in a series of interrupted half-sentences that often seem more like lists of atrocities than actual conversation. Guy jumps into the geo-political tryst despite reservations that repeatedly creep up.

All of this transpires on a couch that is raised farther and farther above the stage over the course of several scenes. Around them is black space from which coffee cups and cigarettes magically appear and vanish. It is a sharp looking production and can certainly be admired for James Macdonald’s direction despite any weaknesses in the work itself. There has been some minor tweaking of the play since its London premiere last season with the Samuel West character being renamed from Jack to “Guy, a man.” This may be intended to make the criticism less time or country specific but the project remains the same. Churchill’s point is an angry one, but not at all unfair. Drunk Enough has received a lot criticism both positive and negative that seems more directed at Churchill's political beliefs than the work itself. As usual, the truth lies somewhere in between. Drunk Enough to Say I Love You? is by no means great, it does drag on and its one point is made rather quickly and from there it really has nowhere else to go. Still, it is a point well made in a good-looking production with two very strong performances. Samuel West deserves an even bigger career than he has and was great here. Mr. Cohen takes a part that could easily disintegrate in a number of ways and somehow manages to keep it all together.

Oh yeah, that reminds me - do we really need another vision of gay male relationships where a predatory male seduces an otherwise straight male into a relationship? I have less qualm with America being cast as the bad guy as I do with the it being the more "out" member of the relationship. Just a thought.



The Pet Shop Boys already did this in 2006 with the song "I'm With Stupid" which is (they admit) about George W. Bush's seduction of Tony Blair.
Wikipedia: http://tinyurl.com/23eea4
YouTube: http://tinyurl.com/r2p4o
Mmmmm.....Sam West.....so yummy in Howards End, still a hottie.

As for your last paragraph: no, we absolutely do not.
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