Love may be a mirage—the self no better—and what is life but a walking shadow, etc? That seems to be the thesis of The Better Half, cocreated by Julia Rhoads and Leslie Buxbaum Danzig in collaboration with Lucky Plush ensembles present and past. Loosely structured by the Patrick Hamilton play Gas Light, in which a woman marries a murderer keen on stealing jewels hidden in her house, this 2011 work about domestic relationships keeps its Freudian slips not only out in the open but embellished into acrobatic pratfalls that hover between the ease of technique and the risk of improvisation.
All who enter are lit by spotlights, not round like the auras of stars, but square, enclosing each in a separate cell. Adrian Danzig and Rhoads are Mr. and Mrs. Manningham, a married couple flung together by circumstance and the chap in the corner reading from the script (the eminently watchable Michel Rodriguez Cintra). As they play an elaborate game of patty-cake that loops a few times through an orbit of contact and abandonment, the maids Elizabeth (Meghann Wilkinson) and Nancy (A. Raheim White) try on identities like ill-fitting shoes—when they’re not being impressed into searches for lost keys and dry-cleaning tags. When Cintra evolves into Detective Rough, the dancing heats up but the narrative simmers down. Who cares whodunit when who we are is far more interesting? Centrally pleasurable are White’s forays into fantasy, as the least defined character in the piece discovers the most possibility. v