Strange bedfellows

Bill (Michael Sheen) and Kate (Maria Bello) make strange bedfellows in the film Beautiful Boy

Bill and Kate make strange bedfellows in a recently released film titled “Beautiful Boy,” which I saw at Harkins Camelview 5 with my 18-year-old daughter Lizabeth last weekend. The film’s creators describe it as “an unconventional love story of a married couple on the verge of separation.”

The woman, Kate (Maria Bello), sleeps in a dark four-poster bed placed against a neutral-colored wall decorated with three white diamonds, one centered above the other two, that appear to be made of antique fabric or lace. The man, Bill (Michael Sheen), sleeps in another bedroom, or on a couch — and spends a lot of time searching online listings for his own place.

They sit on separate beds, talking on different phones, as their son Sammy (Kyle Gallner) calls home one evening. He’s away for his first year of college, and this night will be his last. The next morning, he commits a horrible act of school violence before turning the gun on himself.

But “Beautiful Boy” isn’t his story. It’s the story of his parents’ relationship in the aftermath of his act. It’s eloquently conveyed by a script and director who use various beds and sleeping arrangements to move the audience through the evolution of their marriage, and their attempts to come to grips with “shared grief and confusion.”

This is a quiet film with a loud voice. The writing, acting and directing are exceptional — and the visual elements are exquisite. It was written by Shawn Ku (also the film’s director) and Michael Armbruster. In a “director’s statement” available online, Ku writes of a friend’s death and his family’s ties to a university where a tragic shooting really did take place.

Scottsdale Conservatory Theatre 2011 performs Strange Bedfellows later this month

To experience strange bedfellows of an entirely different sort, head to Scottsdale Community College Wed, June 29 or Thurs, June 30 at 7pm — when a comedy titled “Strange Bedfellows” will be performed by students from this summer’s Scottsdale Conservatory Theatre, a five-week intensive theater training program held at SCC and headed by Randy Messersmith.

Set in San Francisco during 1896, “Strange Bedfellows” tells the story of “the coming of age of a woman’s right to vote.” Apparently outrageous escapades abound as a suffragette converts the women in an especially chauvenistic family to her way of thinking.

Seems the two sides — men favoring the status quo and women working for significant social change — try to out-maneuver and out-smart each other, creating all manner of chaos (and comedy) along the way. The show first opened on Broadway in 1947 and ran for 229 performances.

Messersmith notes that Colin Clements and Florence Ryerson, a husband and wife playwriting team, wrote more than 50 plays and screenplays during their prolific careers. Director Elaine E.E. Moe shares that “Strange Bedfellows” is long on satire, double entendres and innuendo — but says its themes remain poignant, relevant and thought-provoking for contemporary audiences.

Whether navigating personal grief and loss, or larger societal shifts, couples often become strange bedfellows. And the rest of us, it seems, never tire of watching.

— Lynn

Note: Tickets for “Strange Bedfellows” run $10 ($8 for students or seniors with valid I.D.), and can be purchased through www.showup.com or at the door (box office opens one hour prior to show). Both the film and play featured in this post are recommended for older teens and up.

Coming up: Playing “20 Questions,” Lynn & Liz see “War Horse” on Broadway, Art meets economy

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