Faline England and Joe Spano in ‘Love,’ Kate Cortesi’s new play

Written and performed in a time when hashtags such as #MeToo and #BelieveWomen exemplify the changing social dynamic, Kate Cortesi’s new play, Love, examines the uncertainties beyond the slogans by drawing and redrawing the unsteady lines of power dynamics related to gender and consent. 

“In 2017, as more and more #MeToo stories were coming to light … I felt a certain brand of story was missing from the public dialogue,” said Cortesi. “In private, my friends and I were obsessively chronicling a whole spectrum of experiences with men and women in the workplace and in the bedroom. … We were puzzling over pretty confusing scenarios.” 

In Love, Penelope (Faline England) maintains a close friendship with her ex-lover (and former boss), Otis (Joe Spano). She’s disturbed when approached by a group of Otis’s other ex-employees who are going public with allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace. Penelope’s experience with Otis was consensual — even loving. She can’t concede that Otis is predatory, but with both sides of the story coming out, questions arise about the legitimacy of her experiences and the veracity of the other women’s claims.

Love was workshopped at this year’s Ojai Playwright’s conference and will make its premiere at Marin Theater Company this spring. A staged reading will be performed at Center Stage Theater October 5, at 7:30 p.m., and October 6, at 2 p.m. It is the inaugural project from the UCSB Initiative for New and Reimagined Work, a production entity committed to bringing new plays to the community and supporting the upcoming generation of dramatic artists. Both performances will be followed by a discussion of the play’s themes with a panel of academics, social advocates, and the playwright. 

“I think the #MeToo movement, if we do it right, is an invitation to examine all the ways we have internalized the belief that it’s women’s job to serve men,” said Cortesi. “I’d love us to get rigorous about noticing how much a woman’s path through life is affected by her appeal to the male sexual appetite. Is equality possible if everything we do gets filtered through the gaze of male desire? Can we be sex and a person? In my opinion, we’ve barely scratched the surface of that inquiry.”

4•1•1 | A staged reading of Love will be performed October 5, at 7:30 p.m., and October 6, at 2 p.m., at Center Stage Theater (751 Paseo Nuevo). It is the inaugural project from the UCSB Initiative for New and Reimagined Work. Call 963-0408 or see centerstagetheater.org.


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