Divorced from each other for three years, Britt and Joe, at Britt’s suggestion, decide to give it another go. A simple set-up for the two-person character study that is “Flowers in the Desert” at the Cotuit Center for the Arts Black Box Theater.
After he gets over his initial shock at Britt’s change of heart, Joe (Paul Schuyler) is ready to give it a try. He still loves Britt (Jade Schuyler), and he’d like to be more of a father to his young sons. There are rules though, most of them Britt’s, and there are expectations, and the specter of past deceptions. It’s a lot of hurdles to overcome.
There’s a lot of talk between the couple about where to eat. Moe’s is comfortable—but they always go there. Should they try something new? Keep to what they know, or take a chance on the unknown?
There’s also a lot of talk about Britt’s ex-boyfriend, the one she broke it off with to go back with Joe. Joe can’t, or won’t, get his name right. He can’t quite figure out why Britt left him when it seems like he was everything Joe wasn’t. The reason finally becomes clear, but you’ll have to see the play to find out.
Joe, while he definitely still loves Britt and wants to make up for the past and move forward, is less than enamored with her rules, her need for self improvement and the fact that she’s sounding more and more like their marriage counselor. Plus, there’s her reluctance to be intimate.
Mr. Schuyler inhabits his role fully. He’s the everyday guy, the one who likes baseball, beer and burgers while his ex prefers museums, salads and red wine. He’s willing to try but he also knows he can’t change who he is. He also doesn’t want to come back to a relationship that he has no say in. “We have rules for everything. Can’t you just let things be,” he says at one instance, “I’d like your heart to tell your mind to shut the [expletive deleted] up,” at another.
One of Mr. Schuyler’s best moments is when he’s trying to explain to Britt why a certain baseball call matters, what that one call can lead to, what it means for the rest of the game, for the rest of the season. He’s wildly animated and sure of himself. Baseball as a metaphor for life. It’s been done before, but it works perfectly in the scene.
As Britt, Ms. Schuyler is the planner, the one most interested in self improvement and in ground rules. In order for the reconciliation to work she wants to start over, not pick up where she and Joe left off. She seems partly desperate for the relationship to work but is also too hung up on the details to really give it a chance. In her enthusiasm for an art exhibit by Georgia O’Keeffe, she marvels at Ms. O’Keeffe’s talent for taking something small and making it larger than life, all the while not realizing that she does the same thing, perhaps to the detriment of her relationship.
With their flaws and insecurities, both characters come off as authentic.
A real-life married couple, it could have been easy for Mr. and Ms. Schuyler to be too comfortable in their roles. It’s not hard to play a character getting back together with one’s ex when that ex is someone you love in real life. Instead, Mr. and Ms. Schuyler manage to play it cool. Conversations have awkward pauses; the give-and-take of affection seems uncertain.
The play should serve as a springboard to conversation either about what the characters should have done or what we would do in a similar situation.
“Flowers in the Desert” is performed without an intermission and under the direction of Ms. Schuyler and Erin Trainor. The stage is minimal. The couple meet at various restaurants, a theater, the park and an art museum. A table and chairs provide most of the set. Projections on the wall denote the various venues. The show will continue through Sunday, November 24, with performances at 7:30 PM Thursday through Saturday and 2 PM on Sunday.