Forum Theatre
Drunk Enough To Say I Love You?

by Caryl Churchill
directed by John Vreeke

DC premiere

October 11–November 2, 2008 at H Street Playhouse

Guy would do anything for Sam. Sam would do anything. But when Sam wants total, unquestioning commitment, what's a guy to do? On one level a dissection of a dysfunctional relationship, Drunk Enough is also an incisive look at U.S. foreign policy and the seduction of power. The perfect play to reexamine our nation's place in the world as we enter this pivotal election season.

Directed by John Vreeke, artistic advisor to Forum Theatre
Featuring Adam Jonas Segaller and Peter Stray

Potomac Stages

A quick, quirky diatribe of interest to those already convinced that it’s all America’s fault

Reviewed October 18 by David Siegel

Segaller-StrayDo fragments of words and quirky shards of thought, quick sensual snippets of male kisses, angry European screeds that American foreign policy over the past decades has done the world only harm, along with iconic photos of war, misery and other indecorous things turn you on? If so, and you are of the left-leaning type, Caryl Churchill’s short piece will certainly stir up your bile and make you once again go charge onto the barricades. But, if you have tired of America being viewed as the world’s great provocateur without any decency, and foreign policy DNA is not already deep within you, this diatribe of non-naturalist dialogue between two handsome men acting as representatives of the United States and Great Britain will be worth passing by. Your reviewer happens to enjoy the political and does crave a respite from the tried and true of getting someplace by a direct route, so he has some praise for Churchill's interestingly constructed polemic. She presents her opinion without blinking. But with that said, this production has an academic feel to it as if it is aimed at a small world of perceived influentials rather than a larger audience. John Vreeke’s direction does mask some of the script’s flaws by having his cast move about the small set and Adam Jonas Sellager and Peter Stray are both successful in their ability to immediately react to each other as if long time partners, making their shorthand of words and phrases stick. What they accomplish is similar to what some are able to do in real life; hearing the first couple of notes of a song that sparks in one’s memory not only the rest of the song, but the entire context and textures of the moment when the song was first heard.

Storyline: A unique perspective on global politics through the love affair of two men, one representing the United States and the other representing Great Britain. A politically engaged play that takes a critical look at how Britain was at first enthusiastic and then became more disillusioned at American foreign interventions.

Drunk Enough To Say I Love YouCaryl Churchill (born 1938) is a long-time fixture in the theatre world including association with the Royal Court Theatre in London.  She has penned dozens of scripts in her career and come to be known for her non-naturalistic style as she delved into feminist themes. Her critically acclaimed Top Girls (1982) received multiple Obie Awards and was revived in 2007-08 by the Manhattan Theatre Club in New York to wide praise. Drunk Enough was first produced at the Royal Court in November, 2006. Its American premiere was at the Public Theatre in New York City last March. Other recent Churchill work in the Potomac area including Cloud Nine, Far Away, and A Number as well as Fountainhead's 2005 production of Top Girls. Director Vreeke has a deft touch for this play and has cast it well. His casting of two relative unknowns is a blessing in fact. It allows the script to take center stage so that the audience can pay attention to the words and the playwright’s trajectory without letting celebrity names get in the way. He has his two actors very well-honed in the herky-jerky, short hand style of presentation and interaction that playwright Churchill demands. In this piece Segaller and Stray solidly do what is asked of them by Vreeke without flashiness. They let the script’s themes take over. Vreeke has also selected some very iconic images to project on a rear wall to set the dark mood of this production. Nicely selected scene changing music with titles such as “Love Hurts” is also an enormous help to add some theatrically to the evening.

Segaller-StraySegaller is the “top” in this world, at first a quietly confident Dom; provocative, handsomely sexy, with a lean body and loving touches as he coos love. But over time, his mean streaks come to the fore as does his internal fears of being unloved; always needing attention and affection. In some scenes he wears a “wife-beater” undershirt so that his well-honed upper body and arms are a sensual prop. He is all swagger and posturing as he deflects any thought that his views of life are not quite right. He has a carapace that does not let others inside; until affection is withdrawn and then the hurt of a little boy comes forth. Stray skillfully plays the more submissive mien needed in his role. He leaves his unseen wife and nurturing “feminine” family for the strutting Segaller with some doubts, for sure, but leaves he does for the more muscular, manlier partner. At first he is reactive and only wanting to see the good in his new partner. “I can’t say no” is one of his first lines. But, over time, he thinks more deeply and begins to cool in his ardor. At blackout the relationship is in tatters. The kisses between the two start as passionate and their touches as lovers are all of building warmth between them, but as this short piece of agit-prop continues along, the kisses become colder and the touches more of a power relationship than of love.

The H Street Playhouse is in one of its most minimalist incarnations. Just a riser so that the stage area is a foot or two above the floor. On it is a bed with black covers. That’s it. Oh yes - and some nicely projected images on the rear wall and some lighting effects along with iconic music to take the production through its various scenes. One problem is that the H Street Playhouse does not have the smoothest of walls and sometimes the projected images are a bit muddy and broken up.

Written by Caryl Churchill. Directed by John Vreeke. Design: Michael Dove (production)  Rose McConnell (costumes) Mark W. C. Wright (lights) C. Stanley Photography (photography) Amy Kellett (stage manager). Cast: Adam Jonas Segaller, Peter Stray.

The Washington Post

'Drunk Enough': Foreign Relations

By Peter Marks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 18, 2008; Page C08

So Guy, this well-spoken fellow who should know better, is heedlessly, intemperately in love with the reckless Sam. It's the rose-colored-glasses sort of devotion that ignores all warning signs, denies all flaws and forgives all sins. Sam might be a bad boy, prone to nefarious stunts and catastrophic adventures, but he's Guy's guy, and nothing is going to come between them.

Segaller - StrayExcept, maybe, the fact that Sam appears to be leading Guy into Armageddon. In Caryl Churchill's pleasingly, teasingly naked political satire "Drunk Enough to Say I Love You?," Guy is quite literally Great Britain, and Sam's the good ol' U.S.A. Any gray area regarding this assertion is erased in Forum Theatre's program, which identifies Sam as "a country."

Churchill -- the British author of such divertingly provocative works as "Far Away," "Cloud 9" and "Top Girls" -- packages her disgust with Britain's collaborative role in American foreign policy as the story of a clandestine affair between the leader of the wolf pack and a submissive member of the herd. The joke, of course, is on the "special relationship" the United Kingdom is said to share with its former colony, and the dramatist's view of Blighty as a lap dog for Uncle Sam.

Churchill is both laughing, and not. We, too, are supposed to chortle and be appalled. A goodly portion of the playwright's revulsion is illuminated in the weak-kneed Guy of Peter Stray, forever catering to the needs of Adam Jonas Segaller's alpha-male Sam, bedecked, Stanley Kowalski-style, in a sleeveless tee. Under John Vreeke's direction, though, the production at H Street Playhouse uses a font that might be a bit too bold for such a blatant script: Projections onto the stage of iconic images from America's recent wars and other forays abroad offer only redundant commentary.

Stray and Segaller paw each other and prowl on an elevated platform equipped with a ratty mattress; this affair is not high-class. In what amounts to a conversational game of table tennis, Guy and Sam complete each other's thoughts in half sentences as they wrestle with the boundaries of their illicit relationship. Guy, apparently, has a wife somewhere; perhaps her name is "Europa."

The language of lust is translated here into allusions to an astonishing array of controversial policies and foreign incursions. (When it comes to Nexis-searching, Churchill is a veritable virtuoso. ) Every now and then, Sam, sensing in Guy an undercurrent of unease, betrays his own insecurity: "You don't hate me?" Sam asks. Guy demurs, with enigmatic shrugs that hint at deep ambivalence: "Just sometimes, wish you . . ." His voice trails off.

It's altogether unvarnished agitprop, and some might find that a little of the snickering tone goes a long way. (You can groove, in any event, on its masterly construction.) Over 45 minutes, the actors don't always tune in successfully to the escalating sardonic rhythms, but they do manage to navigate the rapids of clever wordplay, in ways that allow this short, angry cry of the heart to work.

Washington City Paper

Segaller-Stray in rehearsal
Segaller-Stray Rehearsal
Drunk Enough to Say I Love You?
at H Street Playhouse

Most of the sentences that lovers Guy (Peter Stray) and Sam (Adam Jonas Segaller) exchange in Caryl Churchill’s Drunk Enough to Say I Love You? get abandoned somewhere in the middle, their direct, indirect, and prepositional objects left hanging the air, implied but unvoiced. Instead, the British playwright slaps a trailing verbal ellipsis to the end of each line, and John Vreeke’s staging ensures that we hear every one. Stray and Segaller really lean into those pauses, so the effect isn’t one of crisp, whip-smart, Mamet-esque banter but of a sustained, reflective, overtly theatrical conversation. We realize that the two men aren’t interrupting each other, or finishing each other’s sentences, they’re riffing on each other’s ideas. Churchill being Churchill, those ideas invariably run to some of the more nakedly self-serving rationalizations behind Anglo-American foreign policy.

The twist: Guy and Sam aren’t just a couple of randy Council on Foreign Relations wonks, they’re, respectively, Britain and the United States, or anyway anthropomorphized gay incarnations thereof. True, their pillow talk has all the charged sexual ferocity of a Brookings panel discussion. And, true, Churchill’s point here (Sam is belligerent and self-involved; Guy is infatuated and passive) ain’t subtle—or even convincingly argued. What it is, however, is awfully well-written and generally well-captured.

Churchill threads the personal through the political like the pro she is; whenever the evening’s pitched agitprop threatens to bubble over into drunk-Poli-Sci-major-at-a-party territory, an abrupt change in tone deflates the rhetoric, exposing the all-too-human needs that drive geopolitical events. At one point, Segaller’s Sam recites a long list of interrogation procedures, each one boasting a more florid, outlandishly grotesque description than the last, until he gets to: “Beating, obviously. Rape, of course.” That sudden infusion of matter-of-factness is expertly timed, perfectly delivered, and chilling. Stray imbues Guy with a satisfying emotional range; in the show’s brief running time, he finds occasion to invest the word OK (Guy’s favorite) with every possible spin—assent (“OK!”), comprehension (“Ah, OK”), and, ultimately, doubt (“OK...”)

The show’s design, by Michael Dove and Mark W.C. Wright, lacks the material’s precision edge, alas. When a series of projected photographic images helped place Guy and Sam’s discussions in specific, albeit metaphorical, time periods, I was grateful for them. But as the evening progressed they seemed to lose their organizing principle, devolving into so much star-spangled window dressing. And unlike Churchill’s dialogue, the ham-fisted selection of interstitial music doesn’t trust the audience’s ability to negotiate subtext. Case in point: the scene in which Guy and Sam get into a tiff over carbon emissions, preceded by—wait for it—Skeeter Davis warbling “The End of the World.”

Directions & Parking

FORUM Theatre and Dance

H Street Playhouse
1365 H Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002


By Bus

Take the X2 Eastbound from Gallery Place China Town and it stops right in front of the H Street Playhouse at 1365 H Street, NE.

By Metro

Closest Metro stop is on the red line at Union Station (12 blocks away) Taking a cab from Union Station to the H Street Playhouse is recommended.

From I-395 North:

Staying on I-395 North follow all signs into Washington, DC. Once you cross over the river into the city stay on I-395 N. There are many splits and exits make sure you stay on I-395 N. Follow signs to MASSACHUSETTS AVE. Once you are on this off ramp you will have a choice of right, left or straight. Stay straight going on to 2nd STREET, NW. In less than .10 of a mile you will reach the intersection with H STREET, NW. Turn right on to H STREET, NW. This will take you up a big hill/bridge behind Union Station (called the Hopscotch Bridge named after all the colorful tile mosaics you will see on both sides of you). When you come down the other side of the hill/bridge you will be on H STREET, NE. Continue straight up H Street and the H Street Playhouse is located between 13th and 14th STREETS on the right hand side of the road. You can park anywhere there is a meter ($0.25 per hour). On street parking is free on weekends and after 6:30pm on weekdays.

From I-95 South:

Merge onto US-50 W / NEW YORK AVE NE toward WASHINGTON. The road will fork. Keep LEFT at the fork to go on NEW YORK AVE NE. In less then .10 of a mile you will reach the intersection of NEW YORK AVE NE and BLADENSBURG RD NE. Turn LEFT onto BLADENSBURG RD NE. After 1.3 miles you will reach what is called the Starburst which is the intersection of BLADENSBURG RD NE, BENNING RD NE, MARYLAND AVE NE and H ST NE. Veer to the RIGHT (not quite a 90 degree turn) on to H ST NE. We are between 14th and 13th STREETS on your left. You can park anywhere there is a meter ($0.25 per hour). On street parking is free on weekends and after 6:30pm on weekdays.

From Massachusetts Avenue, NW/Downtown:

Take MASSACHUSETTS AVE NW east towards CAPITOL HILL/UNION STATION. Continue past UNION STATION (which will be on your left) until you arrive at 4th STREET NE. Turn right and follow MASSACHUSETTS AVE NE around the park in the center by turning left at each corner of the park until you arrive at 6th STREET NE (or the top of the park). Turn LEFT one last time onto 6TH STREET NE. Continue on 6th STREET NE until you reach the intersection of 6th STREET NE and H STREET NE. Turn RIGHT on to H STREET NE. Continue straight up H Street and the H Street Playhouse is located between 13th and 14th STREETS on the right hand side of the road. You can park anywhere there is a meter ($0.25 per hour). On street parking is free on weekends and after 6:30pm on weekdays.