W.K. might be the only show at Fringe Fest show that tackles one of theater’s most challenging genres: the romantic comedy. While there are plenty of shows about love and sex, W.K. takes on the more fragile and fleeting element of relationships, that first spark of romance that makes men and women giddy with desire. The show follows a seven-year relationship between Willie and Katherine, from their first meeting to their big break up, and it succeeds largely on the emotional and physical range of the performers, Celina Chapin and Aaron Alexander.
Chapin and Alexander have a presence and chemistry that recalls the best romantic comedy couples--they’re cute and flirty and starry-eyed--but the play finds depth through the intensity of their relationship. Early in the show, when Willie and Kathy first hit it off and go through the talking-all-night and can’t-keep-our-hands-off-each-other phase, the performers literally cling to one another: she climbs on his back, hangs from his neck, and swings across his body in an athletic, acrobatic bit of choreography. The centerpiece of the set is a heavy wooden table that serves at various times as a dinner table, a bed, and a ping pong table--which is just one of the games that Willie and Kathy play with each other. The show is very physical, and the table gets pushed around the stage throughout the show until it’s finally in the background for the frenzied, violent dance sequence that accompanies the couple’s break up. But the show is also sweet and tenderhearted, and the conversations between the characters are often funny and loving exchanges that can turn hurtful in a second, the kind of honest and raw talk that comes from two people making themselves vulnerable to each other.
By the end of the show, the stage is littered with the debris of a life spent together: plates of half-eaten food, empty bottles, overturned chairs, and cast-off clothing. It’s messy, as relationships tend to be. And while W.K. dives head first into the chaos and disorder of romantic relationships, the show emerges as a polished production, like the perfect keepsake of a heartbreaking affair.
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