Steve Budd Looks Deeply at Love’s Peculiarities
by Gilad Barach
In his innovative and unconventional show, “What They Said About Love,” Steve Budd expresses the struggles and fantasies we wrap ourselves in when it comes to love. Like Budd, we have asked ourselves in desperate times: Why can’t I love and be loved?
With only a folding chair and a cube, the energetic, multi-talented Budd creates an impressive documentary theater, imitating odd couples he has interviewed. In “What They Said About Love,” Budd fluidly embodies an array of unique couples, including his own love affair. His show is a witty and moving montage of their candid and funny love stories.
In Steve Budd’s brilliant, rapid paced solo show, one woman declares that relationships are like buying a house. In her lilting voice, Steve explains that we may want the jacuzzi, the garden, and the large kitchen, but we will have to compromise. But we can work on turning our ‘house’ into a home. Budd’s down-to-earth fears on love arise, as he speaks from the heart about his own love affairs. He makes us wonder if love is a compromise, too. Can love be a compromise?
Steve, young-at-heart and seeking love, decides to spend his fiftieth birthday in Oaxaca, where he meets the intelligent, sweet Chinua. Madly in love, Steve invites her to Berkeley, yet he is still hesitant to marry his younger Kenyan beloved.
But Chinua sees no value in postponing marriage, and tension develops. Chinua scolds Steve for being frustratingly First World. She accuses him of being spoiled by so many choices. She wonders why he won’t commit, when he has found such an incredible 32 year old? We are swept up in their story.
Steve brings all these couples to life, replicating their quirky body language, revealing their frustrations about finding and keeping love. We meet spiritual seekers Claudia and Wayne and their over-affectionate cats; motorcycle enthusiasts Bridget and Rick; coy Connor and sweet Sarah; and others. At first, Budd’s impersonations seem eccentric and typical San Francisco types. However, as the couples develop, I couldn’t help but grin with pleasure at the lovers’ blunt honesty.
The couples open their hearts, offering some good rules. They discourage making lists of future lovers’ traits—DON’T DO IT! Budd show how lists can create a distracting “ideal partner,” which prevents us from finding a real one.
He offers the wisdom that we cannot be too invested in fantasy because no one is kind or generous or sexy 100% of the time. Most importantly, we need to forgive our partner for being human. Our infatuation with love, itself, can carry us far from the fact that we all have flaws and insecurities.
Steve glides from one couple’s comments to another, comparing their diverse presumptions about love. Connor asserts that love is a verb, that it’s about the work, what you do for the other person. While for Wayne, love is based on a “deep sense of friendship.” In each of Steve’s couples, love has formed and established itself uniquely.
Steve Budd takes us on a surprising journey through our doubts and fascinations. And with an optimistic ending, the introspective Budd leaves us warm in all the right places.
“What They Said About Love” by Steve Budd, directed by Mark Kenward, developed with David Ford, at Marin Center Showcase Theater, San Rafael, Sunday, February 23, 2020. Info: marincenter.org
Cast: Steve Budd