Performed indoors, Catherine Harroff and Circle Circle’s site-specific “walking adventure play for the romantic in us all” might lose something in the translation. Six scenes at a university follow the breakup of two relationships and the beginning of another. Been there, done that, had the night sweats to prove it.
But performed outdoors at UCSD’s Eleanor Roosevelt College, with students between classes lugging plugged book-bags planes buzzing overhead, the piece unfolds in its own element.
Indoor theater demands no distractions: no cell phones going off, no gabbing, no crackling candy wrappers. Outdoor, site-specific theater almost welcomes them. It’s art amid unfussy life. At UCSD, the only people not dressed like students are the people following the actors.
When UCSD professors are late, students give them 15 minutes (in the olden days, Herbert Marcuse got 25). Two of the waiting students are lesbian lovers breaking up. One of them, Lulu, strikes up a conversation with a third woman, Jo Jo, whose TA hits on her out of the blue — says he’ll help her out because she’s cute.
Lulu and Jo Jo follow different paths toward each other. Each scene’s labeled as a course on Love’s Zodiac: falling out of (“Break-Up 101”); wallowing in the wilderness (“Advanced Note-Taking”); falling into love (“Final Exam”).
Different actors play the same characters in different scenes, which makes the piece a bit confusing, at first, but accents the general nature of the lessons.
Some scenes are predictable. In one of the best, “A Minor in Obsession,” we stalk Jo Jo as she stalks her TA on his way to class. He dumped her after two dates with no sexual payoff. When she refused, he says smugly, she “closed the door on getting to know” him. His credo: sex first, emotional intimacy after. Jo Jo (Caitlin Ross with her hair aflame) becomes so incensed she shouts “I can’t even pretend you’re dead!”
In the next scene, Lulu’s on the phone, talking to Jo Jo who needs a confidant. Lulu’s been thinking about Jo Jo ever since they met outside the classroom. When she suggests they meet at a pub to “talk,” Lulu (Brittany Allen) has one of the great feelings in Love’s canon: that COULD IT BE? moment. She goes plum dervish and jumps, and whirls, and bounds around. Then the fact intrudes: but isn’t Jo Jo heterosexual?
San Diego I Love You, 3.0 needed some refinements during the press preview. The acting was uneven, music for Lu Lu’s epiphany didn’t cue. Still, the peripatetic piece is a humble charmer.
Also, by having the love story unfold on a multi-million dollar set with a priceless ocean view, and the actors inseparable from the students passing by, San Diego I Love You has an added layer: the same story could be unfolding all around us — for real.