Boy meets girl, boy dates girl, boy marries girl, boy loses girl. Tale as old as time, really.
And while the old-fashioned courtship at the center of Move Your Face seems a dime a dozen and almost hardly worth dramatizing, the way that director and co-creator Joey Frangieh and company tell this particular story is what gives it a winning amount of heart.
Don’t get me wrong; I still don’t entirely understand the reason for wanting to tell this story this particular way (the characters all wear masks and don’t speak), but Move Your Face has the charm and sweet tenderness of a short Pixar film, complete with a bittersweet ending that just might bring a tear to your eye.
Lilly (Lindsay Eagle) and Nile (Nick Perron) may have met on Tinder, but everything else about their relationship is old-fashioned, from the conventional dates they go on to the way that their very heteronormative relationship progresses (they don’t even move in together until after they get married). And for a play that seems to want to look at things differently, it spends an awful lot of time showcasing the stereotypical differences between how women approach dating (spending an eternity picking an outfit) and how men approach it (throwing on the least dirty shirt).
Advertisements for the play say that Move Your Face is “an action play about getting action.” And while the first half of that statement is true, from the tagline alone one might assume that the play is more about sex than marriage. There is clearly a disconnect between the way that the show is advertised and what the show actually is, which is a fair conundrum to be in considering that this is just a preview production: The actual premiere will occur next year.
Putting aside all of this, though, what Frangieh has managed to create is a thoughtful, funny, and well-devised piece of theater that is surprisingly perceptive. It would also appear as if a great deal of time has been spent on the physical movements of each actor—remember, we don’t see their faces or hear their voices—and the results are impressive.
Lindsay Eagle is forever an asset, and her performance here is special, especially for the gentle sincerity that she brings to the role without so much as a word or a facial expression. The entire company does impressive work in respect to their faceless, wordless physicality: Nick Perron as Nile, of course, but also Simon Rogers, Ivy Ryan, and Grace Trapnell, who play friends of Lilly and Nile.
Nate Schaffer’s original music, which is something like what a modern day silent movie soundtrack might sound like, works well to punctuate the actors’ movement; that Schaffer is performing it all live (on several instruments) is even more impressive.
Move Your Face doesn’t know exactly what it wants to be or how to get there, but that’s what this preview run is for; still, there is ultimately more than enough to admire. The gentler moments work best, and what moved this particular serial theatergoer the most was its ache of an ending, one that reminds us that we will all lose the person sleeping next to us each night. It’s only a matter of how.
And which mask we’ll be wearing when it happens.
MOVE YOUR FACE. THROUGH 3.17 AT BOSTON THEATER COMPANY AT BOSTON PLAYWRIGHTS’ THEATRE, 949 COMM. AVE., BOSTON. BOSTONTHEATER.ORG