4000 Days Credit: Liz Lauren

If your partner met you today—instead of whoever you were on the first date—would they still fall in love? Peter Quilter’s queer 2016 dramedy makes literal an anxiety that looms over long-term couples, then dangles a sinister but merciful proposition: if you had a chance to walk away with a clean emotional slate, would you take it?  

After collapsing at work from a life-threatening brain clot, Michael (Marc Prince) descends into a coma. For three weeks in his hospital room, tensions rise between his decade-long partner, Paul (Michael Penick), and his protective and resentful mother, Carol (Beatriz Jamaica, filling in as understudy opening night for Carolyn Nelson). When Michael comes to, he’s seemingly healthy, save for one huge exception: complete memory loss of the last 11 years, including his entire relationship with Paul. 

4000 Days
Through 10/31: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM; also Wed 10/20 and 10/27, 7:30 PM, Pride Arts Center, 4139 N. Broadway, pridearts.org, $30 (pay what you can 10/20 and 10/27).

More often than not, amnesiac relationship dramas are the stuff of daytime TV and retconning blockbuster franchises; here, both Quilter and artistic director Jay Españo take strides to elevate the stakes in this PrideArts production above soap opera contrivances. As a man launched ten years into his own future, Prince conveys both the grief and sense of opportunity of waking up to the real-life George Bailey otherworld of being a decade greyer, with none of the career merits he’d hung his hopes on in his youth. The concept is rich enough without the monster-in-law side conflict, which bloats the plot a bit, but at opening, Jamaica played refreshingly against the script’s archetypal tropes, giving Carol some warmth. 

Uneasy and tentative as it may be, there’s an energy of experimentation in Españo’s production, and 4000 Days marks a step forward for the newest generation of PrideArts.