PRAXIS Series Presents “Life’s Only Valuable Emotion”

Last week Jillian Feuerstein, a senior majoring in theatre with a concentration in performance debuted her play “Life’s Only Valuable Emotion (L.O.V.E.)” at Parker Theatre from Friday to Sunday. Directed by Gabriella Montanaro, the play covers the relationship between Alice (Faith Bower) and Bree (Julia Senise), two women who have been involved romantically on-and-off for over 10 years. 

The play starts off with Alice and Bree meeting each other in a coffee shop. Alice had been writing a semi-autobiographical play, and she wants Bree to look it over. Alice was a closeted lesbian due to her upbringing in a conservative household, and was involved with the equally conservative James (Joshua Erza) who has large political aspirations. Alice and Bree meet each other in college, and from there they become genuinely romantically involved with one another.  Alice struggles to accept her sexuality and to maintain the facade of being involved with James while in an affair with Bree. Meanwhile, Bree is helping Alice however she can, but is frustrated by Alice’s self-imposed restrictions and mental blocks.

The play is incredibly minimal. The only constant set pieces are the table and chairs the two are seated at and a window that they’re sitting next to. Every other set-piece is brought out by the ensemble performers/understudies (Emma Reifschneider, Shanice Mateo and Stasik Winderbaum) to indicate that the scene has shifted. The scene transitions themselves are done in interpretive dance, highlighting the physical and emotional change of a scene.

As for the actors, they were excellent. Bower perfectly captures the feeling of someone deeply conflicted by how they were brought up and who they truly are. Bower portrays the present Alice as someone who’s mostly accepted herself, but her past self is riddled with anxiety, self-loathing and self-doubt. At several times throughout the play, you would swear that Bower was on the verge of crying real tears.

Senise, meanwhile, portrays the snarky and self-confident Bree. Bree eases a lot of the tension that’s wound up during the play, throwing in a quip or one-liner here and there, as well as just being a calming force for Alice. At the same time, however, she has a low tolerance for Alice’s excuses, and is quick to call her out for trying to keep her marriage and their romantic relationship. 

Ezra is just as great. He portrays Joshua at first as dorky, mild-mannered, and maybe a bit too eager to get married. However, over the course of the play he slides into cruelty and cunningness, driven only by his political aspirations. He’s even willing to hurt Alice emotionally just to maintain a facade of an ideal American life. Ezra being able to play both ends of this moral spectrum is a testament to his acting ability.

The writing and dialogue itself is solid. The play has plenty of twists and turns that force the characters to change, and it always keeps you on the edge of your seat. You may have an idea where the scene is going, but the play throws several curveballs to keep you invested. The final few scenes in particular are surprising, and really hit the audience like a two-by-four. The dialogue between the characters it mostly dramatic, again highlighting the emotional tension of this love affair they’re in, but it never gets too dark and weighty. There are humorous exchanges and banter, but they don’t turn the play into an outright comedy either.

Ultimately, “L.O.V.E.” is an incredibly strong piece by Feuerstein, made possible by Montanaro, Bower, Senise, Ezra and all the other students involved. It’s a testament to the PRAXIS program and everyone involved in it.