All My Love: Polyamory play opens in Chicago
Update, May 19, 2009: The play, All My Love, has now closed, and Annabelle River wrote the following on the new sexgenderbody site; copied with her permission:
Where are all the poly writers?
Last week I attended a polyamory book club meeting to discuss [the play. The meeting was organized by Cunning Minx, who also] interviewed the playwright and actor Tony Fiorentino, and published it on her podcast, Polyamory Weekly. (Which podcast I highly recommend in general, and thank you Minx.)
But early in the meeting, we determined something funny about the poly book club discussing this play: The play showed a deeply cynical view of polyamory. And yet there we were, about a dozen active polyamorists, discussing it for three hours.
Now that the play has closed, this review will contain spoilers. Yes, the central character is a woman who claims polyamory as an integral facet of her identity, and she has two boyfriends, and she is a sympathetic character. But one of her boyfriends makes it very clear that he hates polyamory and is barely, painfully sucking it up to avoid losing the girl - and the other boyfriend turns out to be lying to his wife about very important things. Throw in our "heroine's" deeply disturbed teenage daughters and her metamour's infertility, and these characters spend most of their lives screaming and/or crying. New layers of dishonesty and heartbreak are revealed in every scene.
And as a polyamorist, that frustrated me to no end. ...Until someone else at the book club pointed out from Minx's interview with Tony Fiorentino that Mr. Fiorentino is not himself polyamorous, and he never intended to create converts. To quote him from Minx's podcast: "I was actually researching stuff for my previous play... and just came across the word 'polyamory' and started reading a little bit about it, and I thought... It would also make a great play, because... when you put a couple of people together who do not share the same ideologies but they happen to be in love, you have the seed of what could be a play with a lot of conflict."
And there is nothing in that with which I can argue. Mr. Fiorentino is not obligated as a playwright to be our spokesman. And there's nothing untruthful about the implication that some individuals practice polyamory badly. Some individuals in his play also practice monogamy badly. We are all flawed, and melodrama ensues. Then a statutorily-raped teenager attempts suicide on prom night, and far worse melodrama ensues. That much is realistic enough.
No artist should be expected to speak for an entire community, especially if the artist's familiarity with the community is only from books. The unfortunate part is that plays like this do end up speaking for the entire community, because there are so very few artists saying the word "polyamory" at all - and none with any more fame or attention. Reviewer Alan Breslof called the play "educational". The depressed teenagers get at least as much dramatic stage-time as their polyamorous mother, but all the reviews focus on the novelty of polyamory. Fiorentino himself apparently had never heard of the concept until shortly before he decided to write the play. Whether anyone likes it or not, the play did create first impressions for a lot of its audience.
So why isn't anyone else producing poly fiction that's less cynical or tragic? I've heard the argument that good stories require a conflict, but Western writers seem to have an easy enough time writing romantically for monogamy. Hollywood and Broadway and bestseller book-lists have fed us plenty of emotionally engaging stories about couples in love. Where are our poly romantic comedies? Where are our stories about people in functional poly relationships battling external conflicts? Twenty years after the publication of Heather Has Two Mommies, where's the book for Heather's classmate with three?
Read her original post, with comments.
And now, back to my original post:
The new play All My Love, exploring problems poly life, will open March 19th at the Theater Building in Chicago. Already a chain of suburban newspapers has an article:
Love but no marriage in this show
By Myrna Petlicki
March 19, 2009
Monogamy isn't for everyone. Glenview playwright Tony Fiorentino explores one option in "All My Love," a new comedy-drama about open romantic relationships, presented by Diamante Productions, under Braden Lubell's direction, at Theatre Building Chicago, March 19 to May 10.
Diamante artistic director Fiorentino stumbled upon the topic of polyamory during some recreational reading. "I realized that there's this whole subculture of alternative styles of relationships," he said, "when we're so accustomed to thinking monogamy is the only model for a relationship."
Fiorentino stars as Jack, a divorce attorney who lives with his girlfriend and her two children. "He's very possessive of her and very jealous," Fiorentino related. "He would prefer a traditional monogamous relationship and even be married, but his live-in girlfriend Ellen is an avowed polyamorist. He loves this woman very much so he's willing to endure the jealousy and the frustration of having to watch her date another man."
...Unlike Ellen, Hallie "believes a little bit more in traditional notions of monogamy, but her character is willing to go along because she's with somebody who purports to believe in (polyamory)," Fiorentino said.
...Fiorentino hopes audiences will get a few laughs out of the show, "But I also want them to walk out with the realization that there's more than one way of doing things," he said. "When it comes to relationships, the predominant belief in Western cultures is that there is one way ... lifelong monogamy. I'd like people to question the possibility of alternatives."
Read the whole article.
From the blurb on the producer's website:
When a middle-aged divorcée decides to explore the world of polyamory, she must temper the jealous passions of her lover, while her teenage daughters search for the meaning of love through the prism of their mother’s unorthodox practice of relationships. “All My Love” is an exploration of alternative “lovestyles” and a critique of Western society’s most cherished notions of love, monogamy, and marriage.
From an article in Broadway World (Feb. 25, 2009):
...All My Love is a smart, fun and thoughtful look into the world of polyamory and is the fifth production presented by Diamante Productions. The cast includes Fiorentino as Jack.... Fiorentino founded Diamante Productions in 2005, a non-profit theatre company dedicated to the production and development of new plays.
It runs through May 10th. The Theatre Building Chicago is at 1225 W. Belmont Ave. More information and video previews.
Updates: Writer and comedian A. R. Higgins, an outsider to the poly world, reviews the play.
Here's another review, by Alan Bresloff.
And another, by Jennifer M. Lezan.
And another, by Rachel Gillman.
Cunning Minx, a Chicagoan herself, reviews the play and interviews the author, Tony Fiorentino, in her Polyamory Weekly podcast, Episode #199.