Love Medicine, Lifeline Theatre. Obviously, though drama and fiction draw on many of the same conventions, they’re incredibly different genres. Yet over the last 15 years Lifeline Theatre has demonstrated an uncanny knack for adapting works of literature to the stage. Some books resist distillation into tidy dramatic packages, however, despite Lifeline’s Midas touch. Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine is one of them. A collection of vignettes that jump back and forth in time and space, it records the intertwined lives of three generations of squabbling Native American families.
By focusing on a potent love triangle between three of the novel’s most intriguing personalities, adapter Meryl Friedman has managed to transform Erdrich’s episodic narrative into a cohesive, linear script. But she’s smoothed out the kinks in the story almost to the point of oversimplification–Friedman’s script omits some of the lesser characters and individual stories that give the novel its distinctive flavor. And although her stripped-down staging draws attention to the fantastic multicultural ensemble, it suffers from a dearth of action and movement. The real enigma, however, is how desperately Friedman clings to the book’s expository sections. The multiple narrators in Love Medicine spend too much time jockeying for attention in the stage version, laying to waste much of Erdrich’s richly descriptive poetic language. –Nick Green