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A CurtainUp Review
Jordan G. Teicher
Todd (Richard Saudek) and Kali (Christina Bennett Lind), the couple at the center of Stockholm, seem to have a loving, if sometimes annoyingly twee, relationship. They record carefully rehearsed, adorable phone messages, unpack their groceries with Olympic precision, and live in an apartment that they've entirely transformed to their liking — a monument to the life they've built together. With its cartoonishly angled windows and stony foundation, the space, designed by James Dardenne, looks like a cross between a modernist fantasy and a stylish cave.
We find the couple on Todd's birthday, and as the day progresses they occasionally narrate the action like a stream-of-conscious fairy tale. Saudek and Bennett are well cast as the wild-eyed pair, dripping with juvenile excitement and physical energy as they begin preparing a "dream dinner" and fantasize wildly about a trip to Stockholm (which, in their imagination, is the land of Ingmar Bergman and IKEA).
The terms in which they express their affection are equally over-the-top. "Do you know how much I love, adore, lust, love, fantasize, want, need, have to have, must have, love passionately, eternally, perpetually love you desire you, want you?" Todd says. But like the Swedish city itself, which, during the summer is filled with sunshine almost all day, but which is dark for most of the winter, Kali and Todd's relationship works in extremes.
And soon, we witness the opposite pole, the parallel to Stockholm Syndrome (a phenomenon whereby hostages sympathize with their captors) to which the show's title also makes reference. Love, we are meant to understand, is a kind of mutual imprisonment in which jealousy, petty argument and possessiveness are the equally strong by-products of passion and adoration.
Pondering a telescope Todd bought her for her birthday, Kali says, "She wishes he had given her instead an instrument that hasn't been invented yet… something so powerful it can look into someone's brain and see what they are thinking, to check absolutely that someone means what he says." In this light, Todd and Kali's home starts to look less like a palace of love and more like a brutalist jail.
Lavery's characters are delightfully off-kilter, but sometimes their frantic energy has too much sway over the narrative structure. While flashback scenes, like the one that shows us Todd and Kali's first meeting, provide valuable exposition, the jumps are not always graceful. The narrative, at times, loses its momentum.
Nonetheless, as Todd and Kali, at the play's close, sweep their problems under the rug, preferring to dream of sunny Swedish skies rather than confront the clouds forming above their fractured, troubled love, their relationship retains a disturbing familiarity. Even at its most exaggerated, Stockholm's fun house mirror is tragically accurate.