Five Times in One Night, Chiara Atik’s sweet and funny new play now showing at Ensemble Studio Theatre, is a sharp, witty meditation on relationships through time. Atik begins in the future right after a nuclear holocaust: a man and a woman find one another as the last two people on earth. They’re then forced to consider whether or not to…well, um…replenish the earth, so to speak. Over the course of the play Ms. Atik carries us through time, finishing the evening with Adam and Eve, as they discover their bodies for the first time.
In every time period we’re shown a new relationship between a man and a woman, with each couple being portrayed by the same two actors—Darcy Fowler, and Dylan Dawson (both scene-stealingly good). It’s an impressive feat all down the line from the playwright, to the actors, to a sharp and seamless production delivered by director RJ Tolan. Performed at the ever frenetic EST, the atmosphere of the show is set immediately: audience members enter the space through the stage, and sit back on leather sofas drinking Budweiser. It’s a hip party that also happens to be a play.
Goofy, funny, touching, sweet, this piece has a tremendous sense of fun, and keeps the jokes crackling at a high pace. Atik’s tender and funny sensibilities make her quite adept at pinpointing the hilarity, irony, and sadness of modern dating. (She recently released her new book Modern Dating: A Field Guide, so she’s certainly the woman to go to about relationships.) Yet above all, it is Ms. Atik’s comedic flair that is at the play's center. Five Times is a comedy to be sure — and a very funny one — but there are moments of tenderness and pain layered throughout that give it a poignancy it could have easily lacked. The heart of the play rests on the fallibility of human interactions, and that heartbreaking truth is wonderfully coupled with Atik’s vibrant sense of humor. A sweet, sexy show, it’s one you’ll be glad you saw.