I have to hand it to San Jose playwright Jeffrey Lo. When you call your play A Kind of Sad Love Story, you give people a pretty good idea what to expect. Or so you might think, anyway. A Kind of Sad Love Story is indeed a sad love story, although it opens with the central couple arguing over how sad it actually is. Andrew thinks it’s incredibly sad, and Emily thinks it’s not that sad at all. But then, she’s the one who left.
Set in San Jose, the play actually starts with the breakup of two college sweethearts after a seven-year relationship. It’s an abrupt thing: Andrew asks Emily if she needs help with her bags while they’re grocery shopping and she blurts out that their relationship isn’t working. For him this is totally out of nowhere, and even she doesn’t know exactly why she’s breaking up with him, just that things aren’t feeling right. The scenes are broken up with interludes where both of them address the audience, telling their amiably competing narratives of when they first met, their first kiss, and other relationship landmarks.
Billed as an “indie romantic comedy”, Lo’s play is currently being given its world premiere by the Filipino-American performing arts center Bindlestiff Studio, on a particularly sketchy stretch of 6th Street in San Francisco. Interim artistic director Alan S. Quismorio gives it a bare-bones staging with no set. A clever array of contemporary pop breakup songs play during scene changes as part of Alejandro Acosta’s sound design.
One curious innovation in this production is that it features two completely different six-actor casts on alternate nights. Curiously, the double casting doesn’t appear to be suggested by the subject matter; the play’s not about alternate realities or anything like that, except in the “he said, she said” sense. Still, someone seeing cast A is sure to see a substantially different show than a person seeing cast B, just because seeing entirely different performances is certain to alter the affect of the story, maybe even shift sympathies from one character to another.