Human truth hides amid the bright invention of "An Infinite Ache" in its local premiere at the Black Dahlia. David Schulner's mercurial study of a modern marriage is a deft populist construct with wisdom at its core.
"Ache" concerns Charles (Steven Klein) and Hope (Suzy Nakamura), introduced at his L.A. studio apartment. Their first date has been a bust, and the strained banter bodes ill for a future together. Except that tipsy Hope takes a nap before braving the freeways, leaving Charles to envision what might yet be.
Thus, assisted by Craig Siebels' telescoping set, Charles and Hope stride across the years (sometimes in mid-sentence), enduring heartbreak and estrangement to wind up reconciled in a touching deathbed scene. The enigmatic epilogue suggests a return to an unfulfilled present, or a flashback from the end of a predestined union.
From its South Coast Rep commission and 2001 Long Wharf debut, through increasingly frequent regional productions, critics have likened this two-hander to Jan de Hartog's "The Fourposter." Well, yes, but Schulner's mastery of modern idiom and structural ingenuity is more suggestive of his mentor Craig Lucas.