by CHRISTINE SARKES
Understood, presented by Trademark Theater, is a superbly acted exploration of young marriage, political tribalism and what it means to truly comprehend a different point of view. This two-person play written by Tyler Mills and directed by Tyler Michaels aims to tap into the deep political divisions among friends and family under the current administration but is at heart a play about finding commonality when anger and resentment overrule grace and kindness. How does one appreciate the better angels of our nature when we believe “people are idiots” in the words of Chris (Sasha Andreev)? In fact, a partner in the production is the Better Angels organization, a bipartisan citizen’s movement to “unify our divided nation by bringing red and blue Americans together into a working alliance.”
The play focuses on Chris and Julie (Adelin Phelps), a young married couple who struggle after the disappearance of their dog Jack. The event shines a spotlight on the divisions in their marriage, including an inability to communicate and empathize. As they search for clues into their disintegrating marriage, they encounter two strangers with vastly different worldviews. Chris and Julie’s attempts to ease their loneliness and confusion with these strangers is wrapped under the guise of a religious-political discussion but is actually a healing of past wounds. Andreev and Phelps are wonderful, natural actors and the dialogue rings true to life. Some of the surreal interludes were confusing and unnecessary in my opinion. A sharper line to today’s sociopolitical divides would have added more depth and given the audience some relief from the deeply intimate moments between the couples.
But this is a strong showing for resident playwright Tyler Mills and the fledgling Trademark Theater, founded by the multi-talented Tyler Michaels, who won the 2014 Emerging Artist Ivey Award and has impressed audiences and this reviewer with his performances on many stages in the Twin Cities. The theater group aims to challenge the “boundaries of traditional theater-making, and expands the breadth of original theatrical works produced in Minnesota.” We are better angels for their efforts.
Understood, written by Tyler Mills and directed by Tyler Michaels. Now through October 28. All tickets are general admission, $25 and $15 for students, at Brown Paper Tickets. Soma Studios, 79 13th Ave NE, Studio 212
Minneapolis. ASL/AD Night: October 11th, Pay What You Choose Night: October 15th, Closing Night: October 28th. Post-play discussions led by Better Angels will be held after Thursday and Sunday performances (excluding Previews and Closing Night). For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org and www.trademarktheater.org.