Are all relationships so formulaic that if cut up into 52 vignettes, represented on cards, thrown into the air, and performed in random order, audiences worldwide would be able to connect with the material? Evidently. It was certainly the case Sunday afternoon at Theatre 99’s premier of 52 Pick Up, a Piccolo Fringe offering from Seattle’s theater simple.

Actor Andrew Litzky begins the play by saying to fellow performer Llysa Holland, “Tell me a story.” Cards are thrown into the air, comedy ensues. All the relationship high and low points get hit. You see the clumsy first meeting, “Did you know that cranberry juice is good for cranberry infections? I mean bladder infections!” and the heartbreaking end, “Life is such a looooong thing.”

The old reliables — relationship staples — as dependable as death and taxes, are in there too. There is the passive-aggressive making-plans-for-the-evening phone call scene:

“You don’t have to come over if you don’t want to.”
“I want to.”
“OK. But you don’t have to.”

The sweater scene — she buys him a sweater, he doesn’t wear sweaters, “But they make you look better!” she says, and the cleverly-written, all-too-familiar semantic argument — represented in the “sex and beets” scene — which put the small house into a fit of laughter (no spoiler provided).

Stereotypical gender roles are strictly adhered to, which can be disappointing. Holland’s character is an Earth mother, astrological devotee, passionate and spontaneous, while Litzky plays her rooted, practical foil. She’s a cat person, he’s a dog person. She tries to change him, he loves her the way she is, she always wants to talk about the relationship, he doesn’t want to talk about anything. Not very original, but that may be the secret to the play’s success. The more universal, common, and middle-of-the-road the humor, the wider the audience it can relate to.

Your own relationship baggage has everything to do with what you like or dislike about 52 Pick Up. Singles leaving the performance express relief that they are not in relationships. “Thank god I don’t have to deal with that kind of bullshit,” said one playgoer. Couples are drawn closer together after reliving, in a small way, the roller coaster ride of a relationship and confronting “life without you.”

Regardless of the nature of the response, the play is an emotional tour de force sure to induce some reaction. Litzky and Holland impressively turn emotions on a dime, acting out raucous love scenes followed by tear-jerking breakups, interrupted by knock-down-drag-out screaming matches. The order will never be the same, but the solid performances are sure to remain consistent.

52 Pick Up is fun, fast, and fabulously acted, if a bit formulaic. Frequent F-bombs make it a non-family friendly event. To finish with a flourish of cheesy card-playing clichés: it’s sure to be a full house, Ace in the Hole, Texas hold ’em good time. Jack’s bring your Queen’s, you’ll be all in for this joker of a play.

52 PICK UP • Piccolo Spoleto’s Piccolo Fringe series at Theatre 99 • $15 • May 28, June 3 at 2 p.m.; May 30 at 7 p.m.; May 31, 3 p.m.; June 1 4, 8, 9 at 5 p.m.; June 6, 9 p.m. • 1 hour 15 min. • Theatre 99, 280 Meeting St. • 554-6060

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