Dallas — We knit a life; we knit relationships. We drop stitches, tink (that’s knitter speak for un-do), and try again. Sometimes we must even steek, more knit-talk for cutting a knitted item into pieces in order to construct something else. Ultimately we must cut the yarn like the Fate Atropos and allow the process to begin again.
So unfurls a few of the knitting-based metaphors of Sweater Curse: A Yarn About Love, created and performed by Elaine Liner, a Dallas-based theater critic (and TheaterJones co-founder) who now also pens for the stage. The show opened the first Dallas Solo Fest on Thursday at the Margo Jones Theatre, located in the Magnolia Lounge in Fair Park across from the Old Mill Inn.
The “sweater curse” from which the play takes its title posits that if a woman knits a sweater (or whatever) for an intended mate, that male will vamoose before the article is complete. In this version of Liner’s serial love life, that ends up being mostly true. And turns out Homer presaged a fair bit of it, too.
In this well-written and intricately stitched monologue, references from current pop culture to classic movies are woven with an impressive array of tidbits from classical literature and ancient myths. Sort of a well-educated, deeper and kinder version of Kathy Griffin. Shakespeare makes so many references to knitting Liner supposes his wife must have knit. She then proceeds to rewrite the whole “Nunnery Scene" soliloquy from Hamlet: “To knit or not to knit…” The extended word wittiness is a highlight of the play.
Gals have been love knitting for many eras, from Penelope pining for Ulysses to return from the Trojan War all the way to Bette Davis’s knitting appearances during her many romance intrigues. At one point, Liner eases up on the sweetness and reveals the real reason why women knit: “I knit because it relaxes me and help me think. It’s also so I don’t kill people."
Sweater Curse is a gentle play that provokes plenty of chuckles and smiles. It’s laced with casual asides and one-liners of that trademark Liner wit that has singed plenty of local theatrical enterprises. Yet it has moments, perhaps a tad too lengthy, of heartfelt pathos that had audience eyes glistening.
The play is also replete with interesting information that will make you look smart at cocktail parties. The show-and-tell through knitting of non-Euclidean hyperbolic geometry’s outward projection was fascinating. Even better was illustrating how in knitting and in life ignoring a small mistake can cause it to grow exponentially.
With its abundance of inside jokes, knitters will especially adore the play. Evidently those who knit (with two pointed needles) like to make fun of those who crochet (with one hooked needle). But the real war is wool versus acrylic yarns. They especially enjoyed Liner’s tale of a Knit & Natter group (in England, of course) that was kicked out of a library because their needles were too loud, but it was actually a plot to keep the pepperpots down. Yarn enthusiasts are invited to knit, or even crochet, during the show and add a few stitches to the communal sweater in the lobby.
Sweater Curse is directed by Tim Hedgepeth, a fixture in the San Antonio theater scene. He sets Liner’s tone in a soft, conversational way. The quiet presentation is a welcome change from the usual high, kinetic energy projected by many solo performers. But it does leave one longing at times for more emotional animation, expressing frustration and glee, rather that just quipping about them. Coy Covington designed the casually elegant costume, hair and makeup. Every centimeter of the stage’s two chairs, tiny table, stool and coat rack have been yarn bombed, even ball at top of the coat rack, all by Liner, of course.
» The remaining performances of Sweater Curse: A Yarn About Love are:
- Sunday, May 18, 3:30 p.m.
- Sunday, May 25, 5 p.m.
» To see a full festival schedule, go here