A non-linear look at a 40-year relationship in Theatrical Outfit's 'Bright Half Life'

bright half life theatrical outfit
"Bright Half Life" is on stage at Theatrical Outfit through Feb. 27. (Courtesy of Theatrical Outfit)

Have you ever wished life came with a rewind button? Or what if you could fast-forward through the dull moments? In Theatrical Outfit’s new production of the play “Bright Half Life,” audiences experience a story that plays by rules of the remote control, rewinding and fast-forwarding in a 40-year relationship between partners Erica and Vicki. The play’s director Melissa Foulger joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom with the actor Park Krausen, who plays the role of Erica.

Written by Tanya Barfield, “Bright Half Life” presents a deep human relationship in all its complexity, following its ebbing and flowing over four-and-a-half decades.

“We see their relationship from the moment they first meet, when Erica introduces herself on the job, all the way through the final moments of their lives together as they’re planning for the end of their life,” said Foulger. 

The play’s non-linear structure enters scenes of Erica and Vicki’s lives, skipping across years or decades and back while the audience pieces together the story.

“Life is really based on memory, right?” Foulger explained. “We remember all of these things from our past. They don’t necessarily come to us in order. We remember these really great moments. We remember these really horrible moments. But they bounce back and forth, and over the course of time, we revisit things about ourselves and our lives and our relationships, and so by putting it out of order, we see where there are connections.”

With glimpses into two perspectives on a shared life, “Bright Half Life” invites questions about the reliability of memory — are we recording life as it happened or subtly shifting our stories with each retelling? Krausen, playing the character Erica, found the experience “really juicy, as an actor.” She went on, “I feel like it’s mental gymnastics, and it’s hard to keep track of sometimes. Which version of an argument have you already had? Which moment from your first date are you reliving again? How many times do you ask someone to go out, and is it always the same?”

Though “Bright Half Life” doesn’t shy from challenging its audience, the observations on long-lasting love seem to hit home. Krausen remarked on one experience that also showed the value of the play’s portrait of lesbian intimacy, uncommon in theater.

“A woman who was a fairly conservative heterosexual woman came up to us after the show, and she said, ‘Listen, this story is two women on stage, but this story is everybody’s story — everyone who’s lived in a couple,’” recounted Krausen. “She said, ‘I wish more people could see this.’”

“Bright Half Life” occurs at Theatrical Outfit’s Balzer Theater at Herren’s in Downtown Atlanta, Feb. 2-27. Tickets and more information are available at www.theatricaloutfit.org/shows/bright-half-life.