Transatlantic Love Affair wears “These Old Shoes” well at Illusion Theater

Transatlantic Love Affair wears “These Old Shoes” well at Illusion Theater

If you’re scrambling for a last-minute Valentine’s idea, make yourself look like a romantic genius for snagging tickets to one of the last performances of These Old Shoes. The show is the latest from local theater and Fringe-Festival-audience-slaying group Transatlantic Love Affair at their home away from home, Illusion Theater. I’m kind of a groupie—I’ve seen all of their productions, and most of them have been at the Illusion. Their shunning of costumes and sets in favor of creating all necessary atmosphere and sound with their bodies is intoxicating. And this newest production proves that physicality is not just a schtick.

The play begins like most of Transatlantic Love Affair’s others, with the whole company taking the stage to set the scene—except instead of invoking the feeling of a forest or the sea, each player steps forward and piece by piece rearranges their body into their own likeness as an elderly person. There’s an element of contortion to the rearranging of feet and the realignment of joints, and the feeling of time passing quickly before your eyes. The passage of time, and quickly at that, is a theme of the production about different kinds of love stories in one mans’ life and the events that trigger them. His daughter has come into town to help him move from his home into a retirement community filled with delightfully addled and eccentric characters.

Like all of this theater group’s other productions (The Ballad of the Pale Fisherman, Red Revisited) the story is never rushed or shortchanged, but never boring either. They make excellent use of quiet moments and slow movements, but always to emphasize the remarkable physical transformations between their older and younger selves and different characters altogether. Just as in their other shows, the fact that they perform on a bare stage almost never occurs to you because of the hypnotic detail of their movement, expression and tone of voice. The approach perfectly complements a love story over decades.

The two remaining performances are tonight and tomorrow, Saturday the 14th, at 8:00 PM.

If you’re scrambling to make up for something you do wrong on Valentine’s day, Illusion Theater’s next production is the regional premiere of Thurgood, opening on March 5. Thurgood Marshall, for those who need a refresher, was the first African-American member of the Supreme Court and a driving force in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case that desegregated American schools. Topical not just because of African-American History Month and other current events, the look at a life of a Supreme Court Justice is always fascinating. The culture of the court has changed dramatically since Marshall’s tenure and it’s all but guaranteed to be a gripping experience in Illusion’s intimate space.

Lisa Olson