"The Taste of It", the new show at Theater 54, is exhausting. Amazing, but exhausting. The story that follows young artists Sheila (Briana Pozner) and Ross (Landon G. Woodson) as they come to grips with their art, their relationship and each other is so jam packed with rage, hope, lust, grief and love, it will leave you emotionally drained and in awe of the spectacular acting.
The show opens with “Old” Sheila (Jean Tafler) reminiscing about her college days in Boston during the 1970s. Old Sheila stays on stage while her younger self barges into Ross’s dance studio, demanding he be a part of the show she is directing. And just like that, the play rockets off on its passion-fueled trajectory. While Young Sheila and Ross work together and become closer, Old Sheila is there, offering words of wisdom and wistful nostalgic murmurings to her younger self which only the audience can hear. Tafler skillfully adds a much needed calm to the storm that is Sheila and her beau.
As Ross and Sheila fall deeper in love, they become further immersed in their own dreams. Sheila is an ambitious director whose writing reveals complex parts of herself that is not seen in her awkward dialogue with Ross. And he is a dancer who is almost self-destructive in his focus to “be someone.” Together their chemistry is extreme, palpable and utterly dangerous. Writer John Adams and director Alex Levy create intriguing characters that can resonate with the young, the not-so-young, the artists and anyone with a drive and a dream.
Sheila and Ross’s story mostly takes place in Sheila’s small apartment, with sharp angles, dark lighting and a sparseness that is romanticized by Old Sheila. She relives her youth watching Sheila and Ross fight, make up, dance and become vulnerable for each other. She cries when her younger self cries, creating a story that is as much about past regrets as it is about star-crossed lovers.
While "The Taste of It" is a stirring performance, if you’re looking for Boston accents or over the top 1970’s references, you won’t find too many. Besides the odd brown leather jacket and Mateus wine, the staging and script could pass for any recent pre-cellphone decade. But go see it for the wonder that is the three actors who bring fire to the small stage.
Through June 29 at Theater 54.