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Orange Flower Water

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Orange Flower Water, Steppenwolf Theatre Company. This tale of marital infidelity delivers everything you'd expect from a Steppenwolf show. Taut, credible, emotionally charged dialogue. Riveting, risky performances from gifted actors. Flawless direction. A focused dramatic arc. It's also, for good and bad, something like watching couples in counseling. On the one hand, the timeless topic and skill and verisimilitude of the writing mark Orange Flower Water as a worthy variation on a theme. On the other, it's an often formulaic, bluntly abstract version of a story told millions of times. Many of the insights ring dull--like hard, obvious wisdom--but playwright Craig Wright's precarious, problematic faith in true but destructive love almost cancels out the conventionality.

Soccer parents Beth and David, unhappily married to other people, consummate a three-year mutual seduction on the sole piece of onstage furniture, a double bed. Husband Brad figures it out, Beth leaves his ass, and Brad snitches to David's wife, Cathy. Then Beth and David uncertainly navigate the wreckage of their former lives. Wright overdoes some plot-driven twists in characterization, but his unflinching assessment of the damage wrought by all-consuming passion, combined with the brave acknowledgment that life's essence may lie precisely therein, makes for some movingly articulated peaks and valleys under director Rick Snyder's firm but invisible hand. Darrell W. Cox and Whitney Sneed ably undertake the guilt-ridden heavy lifting as David and Beth, while Molly Glynn and Christian Stolte personify the pain of being left behind as their high-and-dry spouses.

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