“What we Talk About When We Talk About Love” at Book-It

When short-story master Raymond Carver wrote about love, he exposed raw nerves, emotional highs, and painful realities. This Book-It adaptation of four of his stories captures all the brilliance of this master storyteller who was so good at depicting the humor and documenting the gut-wrenching actuality of so many marriages in middle class America.

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Andrew DeRycke. Tracey Hyland, Carol Roscow, and Kevin McKeon in “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” Photo by John Ulman

This is not the first time Book-It has tackled Carver’s work. In this 2015 presentation adapted and directed by Jane Jones, one new story has been substituted to give a fuller flavor of the author’s work. In addition, the entire production has been fine-tuned. What we now have is a little gem that speaks broadly yet resonates on a personal level. Andrew DeRycke, Tracey Hyland, Kevin McKeon, and Carol Roscoe play the various roles with consummate skill.

All four appear in “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” a piece that sets the tone for the entire evening. The jolly little group sits around drinking and chatting, chatting often about love, a topic that has a dark underside. Light banter gives way to false gaiety. We watch the cast move through the stages of graciousness to drunken revelry, to lurid revelations. Subtle body language and pregnant pauses reveal a realty we’d rather not face but know exists.

My favorite piece was “The Student’s Wife.” It’s a bedroom scene. He reads Rilke to her as she falls asleep. Then he can’t stay awake. She gains a second wind, has much to discuss. I defy anyone who sleeps in a bed with a partner not to relate to and be delightfully amused but then saddened by the interchange. Tracy Hyland plays the wide-awake wife on just the right emotional roller coaster.

Carol Roscoe as the divorced wife in “Intimacy” brings a level of sustained anger and mania to her encounter with her ex-husband that brilliantly connects funny with tragic. Kevin McKeon gives silence a whole new intensity in “Intimacy” and then turns into a marvelously bizarre visitor in “Cathedral.” In “Cathedral” Andrew DeRycke is outstanding as the bemused and somewhat peeved husband who gradually gains control of the situation.

Raymond Carver is one of the Northwest’s most esteemed writers. Were he alive today, he’d be most pleased with Book-It’s take on four of his exquisite short stories.

Through Oct. 18 at Center Theatre in the Armory at Seattle Center, Seattle, (206 216-0833or www.book-it.org).

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