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Theater Review - Scenes from a marriage

An Infinite Ache

An early moment in Jack in the Black Box Theatre's fast-forward love story An Infinite Ache presents a classic example of first-date awkwardness. Hope (Lotus Huynh) visits Charles (Matthew Myers) in his tiny studio apartment, and he points out, "My whole family was conceived on that bed." From such an unpromising beginning, David Schulner's play follows the couple's relationship across decades, through good times and bad, with the only constants being the man, the woman and the heirloom bed.

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An Infinite Ache applies the term "whirlwind romance" to their entire lives together. After the couple's first date, the action skips ahead days, months, even years, at times within the course of a single conversation. The jumps usually happen without clear transitions, but we quickly settle into the rhythm of the play. After Hope and Charles marry, we recognize that the honeymoon's over when they start volleying questions at each other like, "Can I have a separate bank account?" and, "Will you shave my back?"

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Ironically, for a play about enduring love, Hope and Charles seldom seem like a match made in heaven. From virtually his first line Charles comes across as clingy, with Myers amusingly capturing the character's misplaced enthusiasms. Hope proves more aloof, and though Huynh keeps the role from seeming simply cold, she has trouble connecting to some of its subtler aspects. While playing Hope's most traumatic moment, Huynh's delivery becomes so histrionic that some crucial information becomes inaudible, and one hopes that subsequent performances will amend that.

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Generally, the staging makes the most of The Mask Center's classroom-size performance space, and Jack in the Black Box playfully conveys the passage of time with little details like a trick suitcase, from which the couple unpacks a seemingly endless supply of belongings. The playwright offers some heady discussions of myth and history, but An Infinite Ache's heart lies in its smaller details, such as the way the spouses are always looking for the camera to commemorate their daughter's big moments. Despite hinging on a gimmick, An Infinite Ache intriguingly captures the nature of marriage as at once fragile and resilient. The secret to a long relationship apparently lies not in physical passion, but in the ability to forgive.

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An Infinite Ache. $12-$18. Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m. Through Oct. 21. Jack in the Black Box Theatre, The Mask Center, 1083 Austin Ave. 404-432-9847. www.jackintheblackbox.org.