TimeOut Chicago gives Bright Half Life ★★★★

Saturday, June 17, 1:00 AM written by AFT Theatre

Two women experience love’s ups, downs, ins and outs out of order in Tanya Barfield’s gem of a romance.

“Do you think backwards or do you think forwards?” one of the two characters asks in Tanya Barfield’s hugely affecting two-hander, now in a brisk Chicago premiere at About Face Theatre. It’s a bit of a trick question: Erica (Elizabeth Ledo) and Vicky (Patrese McClain) emote forwards and backwards in Barfield’s refracted portrait of a lesbian relationship spanning decades; we see them meet as coworkers, on their first date, tentatively reuniting after time apart, watching one of their children get married—just not in that order.

The playwright’s non-linear shuffling of scenes cleverly enhances their impact in the way she chooses juxtapositions and repetitions—such as the recurring themes of Vicky’s desire to try skydiving and Erica’s fear of heights. Ledo and McClain fully inhabit these lovely characters and their romance, under Keira Fromm’s lucid, light-handed direction. With warmth and honesty, Bright Half Life suggests that no matter the outcome of jumping into a relationship, you can’t un-jump—nor should you want to.

About Face Theatre at Theater Wit. By Tanya Barfield. Directed by Keira Fromm. With Elizabeth Ledo, Patrese McClain. Running time: 1hr 30mins; no intermission.