Two women named Alice, one queer Irish play

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Cast members from L to R: Trice Baldwin Browns and Aetna Gallagher. Photo by Rebecca Gudelunas.

“I Heart Alice Heart I” follows the ordinary life of a senior-aged lesbian couple in Dublin, which takes an extraordinary turn after a small public display of affection. Reviewing a New York production in 2012, a critic from Backstage wrote that Amy Conroy’s play “glows like a small gem, a stone shining with common sense and shot through with gleams of laughter, affection and keen observation.”

Local audiences will have their opportunity to experience the love story of two women named Alice this month. Curio Theatre Company offers the play’s local premiere, running Feb. 5-29 in West Philadelphia. Out artist Rachel Gluck co-directs the production. A longtime Curio associate, Gluck has appeared as an actor with the company in “Crimes of the Heart” and “Three Sisters, By RashDash, after Chekhov”; in 2016, Curio premiered her play “Antagonyms.” “I Heart Alice Heart I” represents her first outing in the director’s chair.

PGN spoke with Gluck about what drew her to tell this story, her career on both sides of the footlights and her idea of a perfect day off. Some responses have been condensed and edited for clarity.

Can you tell me a little about the play itself?

It’s a contemporary Irish play, written by Amy Conroy, about two women who are both named Alice. They’ve known each other since they were children, and they’ve been in a romantic relationship for about 30 years. This play is about them telling their story.

What appealed to you about telling this story?

From my perspective, what I really liked when I read the script was that it was funny. It has some touching and heartbreaking moments, but overall it’s really joyful. It’s really a celebration of the love of these two women. It has little sparks of the classic romantic comedies. I don’t think we get to see a lot of LGBTQ+ stories that are just rooted in joy and don’t use trauma as an obstacle that the hero has to overcome. Because these are two queer women in their 60s who have been together for such a long time, the play says that there is a different story out there. There are stories of gay and queer people who have lived happy, loving and joyful lives together.

Do you think that stories centering queer women, especially older queer women, are underrepresented?

Yes, I think that’s absolutely true. One of the things that my co-director Gay Carducci has pointed out that she likes about it, is that women of age in any kinds of stories are rarely the focus. They also don’t often get to learn things from the beginning of the piece to the end, so they don’t get the learning arc that many characters have. The implication is that learning stops at some point. This play is very much about learning and growing for two older characters, and I think that’s something you don’t normally get to see a lot.

Your relationship with Curio has encompassed acting, writing and now directing. How does it feel to have an artistic home that allows you to explore different creative outlets?

I’ve been really lucky to have an artistic home where people are willing to give me opportunities. At every step of the way when I’ve said to Paul Kuhn and Gay Carducci, the artistic director and managing director, “I have this play — would you read it?” or “I would like to direct,” they’ve been giving me those pathways to do those things. I’ve been really fortunate in that regard. I know who to go to when I want to work on a different aspect of myself or my career as an artist.

What does your perfect day off look like?

I’m a big fan of doing as little as possible on a day off. This is so boring, but sometimes I get into crazy cleaning and chores mode, and I feel very accomplished. But honestly, an ideal day off is sitting around, watching Netflix. Just all the things you don’t get to do as a busy independent contractor, running around from job to job, always feeling guilty that you haven’t done something.

For tickets and information about “I Heart Alice Heart I,” visit curiotheatre.org. This production is participating in Philly Theatre Week, Feb. 13-15.