Steve Budd Brings Couples to Life
by Ross Callahan
“What They Said about Love” sparkles with manic and irrepressible charm. Steve Budd begins with a bang when he transforms himself into several couples within the span of a few moments, by adopting unique postures and voices. He has the knack of capturing facial expressions that transmit feelings and personas, precisely.
Those characters initially provide such a chaos of voices and opinions passing over Steve’s features, that I worried I’d be swept away. This fear was short lived. Because the structure takes shape quickly.
Steve interviewed couples who share with us how they met, their honeymoon period, and moments of conflict and resilience. And as we are introduced to these couples and their voices, we are also introduced to Steve Budd’s relationship with a Kenyan woman he meets and falls in love with, in Oaxaca. His love for Chinua becomes his primary struggle. The couples that Steve personifies become a commentary about each love-stage he is passing through.
Several moments were so tender that I could really sympathize with Steve’s growing love. Here’s one reason he is head over heels: “When I tell Chinua about my depression, she begins to cry.” We understand that her compassion and tenderness cut to the core of what we all want out of intimacy.
When Chinua walks out, Steve Budd exclaims in a shining moment of vulnerability: “Why can’t I do this? How does anyone do this?” Here, the purpose of “What They Said about Love” clicks into place. This was such a struggle for Steve. This relationship thing. And the couples he plays have become his peers, his teachers, and his mentors.
Steve figures out that couples have to survive each other. A female member of a couple (played by Steve) explains that she cannot imagine staying on in the future with her mate. Instead of breaking up, she shares her dread with her partner. And he holds her as she cries. Together, they mourn what they can never be.
Love begins as a fantasy, and we must survive the bursting of that bubble, weathering the storm of disappointment. Moments like these leave the audience satisfied with the insights Steve has cultivated.
This picky reviewer found himself wanting a little more background from Steve. Why is love so hard for him? His father was critical. That seems a little reductive. Some more exploration of Steve’s internal world would be welcome.
Steve Budd’s uplifting and energetic jaunt through the trials of love thrives because of his excellent acting and warm moments of insight.
“What They Said About Love” by Steve Budd, directed by Mark Kenward, developed with David Ford, at The Marsh, Berkeley, through Saturday, April 21, 2018. Info: themarsh.org
Cast: Steve Budd