Judith Newmark – stltoday.com, December 15, 2015
The memory play making its world premiere at Max & Louie, “Sublime Intimacy,” is, as its name suggests, about lost love. These are not exactly uncharted waters.
But Ken Page, the author and director, has made two decidedly different choices, choices that put this moody, romantic piece in a class by itself.
In the first place, one performer, Alfredo Solivan, plays all the objects of affection. Love stories are shared by a group of friends, loosely connected through a college (pretty clearly Fontbonne, though it isn’t named). Most of the friends, four men and one woman, have loved a male dancer — and Solivan’s eloquent performance distinguishes each from the others.
The other remarkable choice Page makes lies in the emotional generosity he extends to his characters (and, thus, to his audience). None of the relationships involves physical intimacy; a couple don’t even involve conversation.
But who’s to say what love is? How about, the one who felt it? The one who, years or even decades later, still aches with longing?
It is easy to dismiss those relationships — if we even call them relationships. We call them “crushes” or “flirtations” or, less kindly still, “fantasies.”
But Page refuses to set a standard for love, beyond the heart’s own standard. As a result, his characters tell us things they have never, or rarely, spoken of. Just letting these stories out goes a long way to acknowledging their importance.
The friends include an actress (Bethany Barr) who loved a boy in her childhood ballet class; a painter (Michael Cassidy Flynn) who loved a dancer he saw in a student recital; an entertainer (J. Samuel Davis) who loved a ballet dancer he met at a party in Paris; and acting teacher (John Flack) who, in his Hollywood days, loved a sophisticated dancer in movie musicals.
Flack, in a long scene, recalls the heady days of that unusual connection with such fire and tenderness, it’s nice that Page grants him a life partner (Reginald Pierre) in a long and loving loving relationship. The others are not so lucky.
Emotionally, “Sublime Intimacy” is of a piece — a deep-blue piece. The original music by Henry Palkes (woven in with classical selections) and original choreography by Kameron Saunders and David Marchant, plus Solivan’s improvisations, combine in smoky shadows. Teresa Doggett’s era-spanning costumes evoke romance under Patrick Huber’s subtle lights. The set, by Dunsi Dai, is dramatically punctuated with deep-toned paintings by Marjorie Williamson.
These paintings, too, help us to see the dancer (or dancers) from different perspectives. But nothing makes that so clear as Solivan. Whether performing formal ballet with elegant authority, or delivering sultry nightclub moves (complete with cigarette), or simply walking across the stage in a chic jacket, he makes each man a distinct character. Each one is worthy of someone’s love and memories.