Infinite Life is a slight, subtle play – at just over 100 minutes straight through (no interval) it breezes by with seemingly not much happening. The play is set across about 10 days: during this time we meet five women who are recuperating at a somewhat dubious health spa in California (no treatments are offered beyond relaxation, accompanied by either a water cleanse or a juice cleanse). We learn a bit about their various ailments, alongside their backgrounds and interests. Not much else really happens, although a male character appears in a handful of scenes, resulting in some entertaining dialogue.
A co-production between the National Theatre in London and the Atlantic Theater Company in New York, Infinite Life opened Off-Broadway at the Linda Gross Theater in September and has transferred to the National Theatre this week. It’s the latest play from acclaimed playwright Annie Baker, who previously won the Pulitzer Prize for The Flick. There’s not a lot to it – this is one of the most understated plays we’ve ever seen – but Infinite Life is much less concerned about what happens, and much more concerned with how it happens.
It is, essentially, a series of hyper-realistic conversations. Sofi (Christina Kirk) is the youngest by a fair margin – the other women seem surprised to see someone in their 40s at the spa – and the eldest is the frail Eileen (Marylouise Burke). We also have Yvette (Mia Katigbak), Ginnie (Kristine Nielsen) and Elaine (Brenda Pressley) and, as the play progresses, we meet Nelson (Pete Simpson). The passing of time is announced by Sofi, addressing the audience directly, and we see day turn to night with the effective lighting design of Isabella Byrd.
It’s a thoughtful and considered study of pain, longing and sexual desire. The joy – or lack thereof – of sex is a frequent conversation topic, with different desires and relationships uncovered, alongside differing attitudes between generations. The conversations feel completely natural – a testament to the quality of the acting on display – while the observations are incredibly astute, and frequently laugh-out-loud funny. We won’t spoil any of the lines, but we found the dialogue engaging, amusing and completely believable throughout.
Infinite Life is an intelligent new piece of writing – one that doesn’t really do very much, but says an awful lot, with all of the dialogue underpinned by a wonderfully surreal sense of humour. Well worth a visit.
GAY TIMES gives Infinite Life – 4/5
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