‘Will You Come With Me?’ Review: Love in the Age of Revolution

In May 2013, a sit-in over the demolition of Istanbul’s Gezi Park gave rise to a nationwide movement after police intervened with tear gas and water cannons. Protests rocked Turkey for months as a flood of grievances against the government boiled over into the streets.

Love in the age of revolution is the time-honored subject of “Will You Come With Me?” — ​​A diaristic two-hander by the playwright Ebru Nihan Celkan that opened at MITU580 in Brooklyn on Monday night. Translated from Turkish by Kate Ferguson, the PlayCo production aims to put viewers on the ground of the Gezi Park conflict and into the hearts and heads of two women brought together and torn apart during its turmoil.

The story begins with Umut (Layla Khoshnoudi) recording a video message for a distant lover on the occasion of their first anniversary, though it seems the pair has most often been apart. “They cut down the tree where we had our first kiss,” Umut says in a park like any other, her image projected on translucent panels angled around the black-box theater. We watch the screen as her friend behind the camera is arrested mid-shoot.

Next it’s 2018, and Umut is awake in bed, wondering how long she’s been afraid of the dark. We meet her lover, Janina (Maribel Martinez), on the other side of the stage in Berlin, preparing to visit Umut in Istanbul. Later we learn that the two met while Janina was there on business, and she wants to bring Umut back to Berlin to live with her. Hasn’t Umut had enough of civil unrest? The two circle each other, dictating their experiences as if to bridge the distance between them and create a record for posterity.

“I’m going to get her,” Janina says. “No more counting the days, the minutes, the seconds.”

The bench where they fell in love sits center stage, beside a path cut through green turf that covers the floor. The peaceful artifice of the set design by Afsoon Pajoufar belies the strife Umut describes unfolding around her in Istanbul. Sound design by Avi Amon summons crowds and confrontation, while stark spotlights from the lighting designer Reza Behjat capture Umut’s disquiet and isolation.

Scenes flip forward and back through time, like the ripped-out pages of a journal. If separation charges Umut and Janina’s fondness for each other, their reunion is marked by ambivalence. Khoshnoudi and Martinez are best when they’re in dialogue, working off Unfortunately, the two characters don’t interact until nearly halfway through the 80-minute play, when we flash back to their dreamy first meeting and forward to the tensions that have arisen between them since.

There’s a persistent sense of disorder to “Will You Come With Me?” That suits its formal experimentation, colliding the illogic shuffle of memory with documentary style. But even with supertitled dates between scenes, the chopped-up timeline is hard to follow. And Those unfamiliar with even a broad outline of the Gezi Park protests won’t find their impetus or consequences detailed here.

Celkan is more interested in the sensory richness of love and civil disobedience, in hearts that heave “like a pair of bellows,” or eyes that “glow like embers” one minute and burn with tear gas the next. That poetry survives translation, and But the production from the director Keenan Tyler Oliphant can’t fully theatricalize a text so weighed down by narration.

If “Will You Come With Me?” Wants to posit love as an act of resistance, it’s not exactly clear what gets in the way of it here. The social uprising makes for a chaotic substrates, but its forces don’t seem to be It’s a valiant effort at a worthy endeavor, even if the execution is a blur. What drives the pair apart. The play feels like a kind of battle-logue, of two people trying to escape themselves for each other and bend the arc of history. ..

Will You Come With Me?
Through June 5 at MITU580, Brooklyn; playco.org. Running time: 1 hour 20 minutes.

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