San Francisco Fringe 2016
“Steve Budd asked a bunch of couples what keeps them from pulling apart–despite annoying the heck out of each other. He spoke to some singles, too, about why they can’t seem to settle down. Meet a New Age couple that met before they met, an artist who can’t resist homeless guys in her West Oakland ‘hood, a guy who falls for women who remind him of his mother, and a pair of Metal Heads who thought it would be a hoot to get married on 6-6-6. Satisfy your voyeuristic tendencies about how others look for love—and, in some cases, find it. Who knows? You might learn the secret to finding your life partner.”
Steve Budd’s show explores what brings people together and more importantly, what keeps them together. Having found a dozen or so people to interview for this project, Budd has cleverly curated the results in a non-linear fashion that goes back and forth, with fascinating details about each person. Several couples were interviewed together and others individually.
Budd is an actor and storyteller who is able to embody these characters physically and change his voice and tone. He does this so effectively and authentically that the people are real and never caricature or stereotype. Although there is only one actor on the small stage, he sits in a chair or crosses to the right or left of the stage for different individuals. Thus each character has his or her space, voice, physicality – and their vivid personalities are real and easy to follow.
Some of the people are still looking for mates, using the new normal for relationship matches – Facebook and Craigslist. One woman has crushes on men from different cities. Someone else wonders why they are still single. One reason given is that they all seek partners like themselves, which is very difficult to find. Budd’s vocal changes are smooth, as he goes on to explore the purpose of having a mate – to have kids, maybe settle down?
This show is a fascinating docudrama as the couples chat to each other, reminiscing about their first meeting and first sight – which may be based on the most ordinary or surprising things! Some couples are attracted to each other because of similar or opposite energies or habits. The honesty of the interviewees is admirable and viewers may learn a thing or two about this topic, depending on their situation. The give and take in the relationships, acceptance of one’s foibles, irritations and joys are important and apparent – as well as one or two tongue in cheek reasons for a successful coupling. Without giving out too much information, one couple’s spark plug story is brilliant and hits the mark well.
One thing that Budd does that makes this show so interesting is that he intersperses the interviews so that he comes back to the characters several times during the show. This gives the audience a longer time to meet and get to know each character. Therefore, by the second half of the hour long show we feel that we really know each person. This is an uncanny feat and draws us in organically, as if being entertained is secondary to this fascinating ethnographic reality conjured up before our eyes.
Budd has a wonderful compelling presence and he gives a nuanced performance. An accomplished performer in both theatre and comedy he has a wide emotional range and an astute eye and ear to bring these souls to life. Budd’s crafting of this show, directed by David Ford, encompasses a rich and visceral follow through of the stories. The entirety builds well as the characters delve more into their circumstances. It’s heartfelt and very entertaining!