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Don’t let the adorable title fool you. Or rather do, and let this play break down your expectations, replacing them with a deeper experience. Fledgling playwright Zoe Kazan is proving quite talented at navigating the infinitely puzzling universe of relationships, this time posing the question: can you love two people at once, and what happens if you do?

Kazan certainly addresses the complexity of modern romance, but her complications run even deeper. Trudy, both as text and as production, also questions, upsets, and subverts contemporary Western gender roles and stereotypes, while at the same time commenting on the peculiarities of her modern audience.

Trudy was intimate and intelligent; its humor came in its irascible yet likeable characters, though it sometimes lapsed into the ideas, rather than the emotions. Action was subdued by exposition. Some scenes were filled with commitment, but occasionally the writing became too caught up in itself—I felt that the script might be better suited to a novel adaptation, with poetic lines about the characters’ various states. However, this could easily be a new wave of playwriting that I personally haven’t encountered yet…in that case, good on Miss Kazan for trying something new!

The most enticing facets of this production were the structure of the play and the set and light design. The show ran somewhat like a sitcom, with series of short scenes popping in and out of the audience’s view. Most began in the middle of the conversation, giving the entire play a pleasingly infusing feeling; the crowd is plopped down into space like a time traveler, curiosity inspiring the mind to make connections about whens, wheres, and hows. The audience is not fed the information of each scene or setting, it is only insinuated, leaving the bare bones of the story to take the foreground.

To that end came the latter artistic choices: a minimalistic set and simple but provocative lighting. One room made up the entire set structure, fixed quaintly back into a moving proscenium box that gave the whole production an interesting two-dimensional feeling: it was often like looking at a moving painting. Changes in setting from scene to scene relied on shifts in the quality, placement, and color of light, and the behavior of the actors. This made for some exciting theater; it engaged the viewer because it forced s/he to build the world these people live in.

While minimal in production, Trudy was nothing simple. Tracing a relationship from birth to death, the play challenged traditional linear structure by providing an ending and beginning, but hopping back and forth between events. When audiences are spoiled enough never to have to leave their couches for breathtaking entertainment, and information comes faster and faster at our fingertips, this production spoke volumes in seconds. All of these unique artistic choices, {the frenetic skipping through time, the minimal visual detail, the scenes cut short} recalled the frantic pace of the post-modern age. Scene’s came to a clear close, as did the play, but even then, no true resolutions were met. The story ended without any indication of a concise future for the two leads; they are left hanging in a tangled romantic web. The play reflected a day and age where nothing is ever completed, because something new is already interrupting.

Trudy and Max might at first be categorized into conventional roles: Manic Pixie Dream Girl and Goofy Lovable Hero, characters at the mercy of problematic social constructs. Max appears first, and context indicated that he is the protagonist. If he is, then by traditional Western literary standards there must be an antagonist, someone against Max; this may well be Trudy. As the conflict of the play unfolds, Trudy is found to be the unfaithful one, conflicted by her emotional connection to two men, Max and her husband. Max becomes the mistress in this scenario: Trudy cheats on her husband with him, he is the unwitting “other man”. This is a violation of Western ideas. Kazan subverts our expectations, pushing our boundaries. We might expect a man to step out on his girlfriend, typical behavior through the annals of fiction and real life. The cheating man has become unfortunately commonplace, unsurprising fare for romantic conflict.

Trudy, in clear contradiction of this, muddles the cheating issue: should her audience forgive her, or revile her? If she is to be blamed for complicating her relationship with Max, is she the antagonist? Or is she another protagonist, caught just like Max in a great mess of battling emotions.

Trudy exhibits what is generally thought of as “male” behavior in the West: adultery. In one regard, this might be a liberation from past restrictions on a woman’s romantic freedom: allowing her to enter into a male field frees her from the role of ever-faithful, forgiving woman. Kazan capitalizes on gender equanimity here by suggesting that a woman can just as realistically hold herself to the same standards as a man, however faulted those standards may be.

From a different perspective, Trudy  succumbs to the “male” cheating habit. If we consider the couple’s representation of gender differences, we might say Kazan’s point in Trudy was the impossibility of a completely copacetic heterosexual relationship, a reality that will always include divisions between the sexes.

That is after all a major source of conflict in the play: the lack of cohesion between Trudy and Max’s separate, traditionally gender-specific viewpoints. In many veins of pop culture and history, people typically understand men as simplifiers, breaking issues down logically, where women are more complicated thinkers, approaching conflict from an emotional state. These are very broad stereotypes, but Kazan is able to use them as a source of comedy and drama, self-aware enough not to become offensive. Trudy’s feelings are too complex for her to decide between them, Max simply wants a pure, loving relationship with her. Even without the question of cheating on the table, Kazan seems to argue that women and men will never plateau in their conflicts, but continue to spin around each other. The outcome, she leaves up to her audience to decide.

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