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The Three Times She Knocked (Fringe Festival 2011)

by Karen Tortora-Lee on August 15, 2011

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The Three Times She Knocked (Photo by Josh Jones)

How innocently these things can start … a knock on the door, a simple question, met with a glance that – to the person meeting those eyes – may appear to linger too long or bore in too deeply.  Is this the beginning of a forbidden love affair between two already-married co-workers?  Or just the planting of the seed of a what-could-be fantasy in the mind of a man already hungry to harvest a new crop of sexual obsession? For Eric (Bob D’Haene) his spark for Tara (Isabel Richardson) is set off innocently at the office, but is flamed into a bonfire each one of The Three Times She Knocked on his office door.

When we first meet Eric and Tara two things are clear up front: he’s intense and she’s … well … attractive.  But for Eric, Tara is more than merely attractive, her allure comes at him “from a different plane” – one which terrifies him because it encompasses him heart, mind, soul and spirit.  This is more than just a pretty package, this is a daily struggle.

“To attempt to resist her is folly”, he notes … “I must avoid her completely”.  And so Eric’s days are spent scurrying around the office making sure he doesn’t run into Tara.  He cancels lunch plans with his team.  He avoids after-work drinks.  He uses alternate hallways that won’t take him past her neck of the woods.  But when Tara confronts him directly, Eric must admit that he is consumed by fantasies of her.    Or rather his “friend Aaron” (Are we really going to do this? asks Tara, exasperated that Eric is resorting to the “I have a friend” language of High School) is consumed by fantasies of “a woman”.  A different woman.  But what happens when that woman … or Tara, speaking on behalf of that woman, wants to embrace the fantasy as well?  What if the stakes of the game get raised when the fantasy begins to reciprocate?

Since both of them are married – and never touch – and have a “relationship” that is purely spun of words and based on a type of phone sex without the phone … or the sex … they begin to exist for each other on a different level that is difficult to describe but which is fascinating to watch unfold.  Speaking to each other breathlessly, and through the personae of “Aaron” and “This other woman” they gamely up the ante at each turn.

“Doesn’t ‘Aaron’ care that she’s married?” Tara asks Eric at one point.  The answer is “Of course not“.  “Her” husband exists in the real world and can only love the external woman whom he interacts with.  When you love a real, corporeal woman, the love is conditional, Eric reasons. “Aaron”, on the other hand, loves the fantasy – the ephemeral woman who exists just as strongly, if not more so.  And because the fantasy woman is perfect, he can love her unconditionally.  In effect, they are both smitten by two entirely different women – so, there’s no need to be jealous of her husband.

As the story unfolds a few hidden secrets emerge which I won’t reveal here, and the ending contains an unexpected twist which, once it is told, you realize you saw coming all along.

Writer A.D. Penedo has successfully taken a different type of relationship and made it not only understandable but accessible.  By giving Eric a mechanism where he constantly breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience we’re given a unique look into the mind of a man consumed not so much by a woman but by a way of operating.  By Eric himself explaining his little quirks and foibles to us we are left free to sit back and watch as his confessions to us pave the way  for his actions toward Tara.  And sure, while he may seem a little out of his mind, at least he’s explaining his motives to us.

The chemistry between Bob D’Haene and Isabel Richardson can best be described as “interesting” and I was left to wonder if my impression of their interaction was intentional.  For really, this relationship and this obsession Eric is having is purely and undeniably with himself and his idea of Tara.  Therefore when Tara comes off as a bit bland, rather pedestrian, and when there is no actual palpable chemistry between them it’s not actually a disservice to the story since Eric’s obsession resides within himself and it is THAT which is being explored.  So again, I was left wondering if Richardson’s rather flat, uninteresting performance was a choice she herself made, or one which director Christopher Windom pursued.  That she is physically attractive is unarguable – tall, blond, with a lovely face and figure.  However her actual delivery yields no particular spark which adequately explains why she would set such a torrid, erotic fantasy in motion.  Again – if the choice was intentionally made in order to juxtapose a seemingly normal woman with the overactive imagination of an obsessive man, then the choice was perfect.  Still … in a two person play, with such an amazing actor as D’Haene carrying most of the play, a bit more fire would have been welcomed from the object of his desire.

The Three Times She Knocked is a wonderfully written piece of theatre that explores alternate forms of relationships.  While there may not necessarily be a “happily ever after” for this couple, this was no less a fairy tale romance populated with as much fantasy, hope and hyperbole as any story little girls are told before they are tucked into bed.  How that fairy tale romance plays out on the boarder between reality and illusion is the real story here.


The Three Times She Knocked

Flying Squirrel Theatricals

Writer: A.D. Penedo

1h 30m

VENUE #17: Manhattan Theatre Source

Wed 17 @ 6 Tue 23 @ 2 Thu 25 @ 9:15

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