Ben Lewis and Lucinka Eisler in If That's All There Is
(© Helen Maybanks)
Ben Lewis and Lucinka Eisler in If That's All There Is
(© Helen Maybanks)
Inspired by the Leiber & Stoller pop tune made famous by Peggy Lee, If That's All There Is, now at 59E59 Theaters, is a 65-minute off-beat exploration into the search for meaning in a relationship that still takes considerably longer than Miss Lee did to literally make her very same point. Created by Inspector Sands -- and running in repertory with that same company's Hysteria (with the same actors) -- this show is as engaging as it is purposefully obtuse.

The play begins during the wedding of Daniel (Ben Lewis) and Frances (Lucinka Eisler). As the lights go on, Daniel is giving a speech to their wedding guests that comically reveals him to be both a control freak and a bit of a bore. Watching his new wife's facial expressions as he drones on is a play all by itself; she is a wonderful clown. The scene ends with sudden shock and then the rest of the play are flashbacks to the weeks and months before the wedding.

What we learn is that Frances, presumably under the dual pressures of dealing with her overbearing fiancé and preparing for the wedding, is becoming crazier than a fruitcake in July. Her irrational behavior has so alarmed Daniel that he seeks out a therapist (Giulia Innocenti) for help in understanding what might be wrong with Frances.

But the therapist is more than a bit looney tunes herself. Nonetheless, she elicits from Daniel a childhood memory that seems pretty benign to us, yet somehow carries a huge weight of shame and embarrassment for him. In short, our bride and groom become less and less like real people and more and more like zany caricatures. The effect is distancing and it robs the piece of warmth and not a little bit of humor.

Even as the play's humanity is lessened, however, one can (and does) sit back to watch the play's theatrical prowess. If That's All There Is gives these players (who apparently directed themselves with the help of Lu Kemp) the opportunity to create a dense landscape full of all sorts of madcap comic moments, punctuated with sophisticated sound design and unexpected twists and turns.