Blackvaliant Productions, Chicago Fringe Festival, at the Organic Theater.

At a time when awesome stage effects are confused with drama, and “high art” is measured in yawns per minute, it’s great to see an extended one-act that catches and keeps its audience with two of the oldest yet most powerful stage “tricks”: a well-written script and intelligent, evocative acting.

The premise of Gregory Lyle-Newton’s 66 Intimacies couldn’t be simpler: a man and woman sit alone onstage talking–actually, arguing would be a better word, since these two go at each other like two bees at the bottom of a soda bottle. Joanna and Nick have been married just long enough to see that their married life isn’t perfect, yet are still young enough to yearn for that impossible perfect love, which once seemed so close, but now…So they bicker and whine and blame each other for their misery and the messiness of the world. And they slowly circle the things that are really bothering them. Lyle-Newton’s dialogue expertly captures the loopy ways couples communicate: showing love through anger, hostility through condescending kindness, concern through annoyance. And Carolyn Polonsky as Joanna and Lyle-Newton as Nick speak volumes about the characters and their marriage with every sigh and bitter smile and strategic pause.

Because the play is set in 1966, Lyle-Newton apparently felt compelled to junk it up with some prefab conflicts of the era–the civil rights movement, the generation gap, the escalating war in Vietnam. But not so much that he turned what is at heart a beautiful, quiet, utterly real play into a movie of the week.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Shaun Vinyard.