You are currently viewing “I Love You So Much I Could Die” reviewed

“I Love You So Much I Could Die” reviewed

In her new solo play, I Love You So Much I Could Die (now at New York Theatre Workshop), Mona Pirnot never speaks during the show. She only sings — and even then, she remains seated and facing the exposed brick upstage wall (classically downtown scenic design by Mimi Lien). She leaves the non-musical bits to a Microsoft text reader. A laptop with the script open rests on a folding table, and at the press of a button it delivers a story about a medical emergency that befell Pirnot’s sister in March 2020, right as hospitals were becoming overwhelmed by the Covid pandemic. The details of the accident are hazy and only partially revealed, which is perhaps one of the reasons why this solo play, performed by a robot voice, is significantly more enthralling than most of the confessional solo shows I’ve witnessed in this town.

The show is directed by Lucas Hnath, who is Pirnot’s husband. This is the latest of Hnath’s experiments with audio following Dana H. and A Simulacrum. Those previous works deployed recorded human voices to instill a sense of the uncanny. The use of the text reader here forces us to focus on the content of the play, rather than the performance of the actor. And while there is some computer goofiness (the reader inexplicably pronounces the name “Shia LaBeouf” three different ways), it proves perfectly adept at conveying this incredibly painful and personal tale, which needs no actorly enhancement.

It helps that Pirnot breaks up the computer voice with her own lovely singing voice on five numbers, ranging from the relatable and charming “Good Time Girl” (Pirnot performs an electric guitar solo with her own voice, giving herself the giggles in the process) to the achingly sincere title song (which includes the lyric “It hurts when I cry / It hurts when I smile / It hurts a bit less when we kiss”). The final song, “74th Court,” is particularly arresting, with orchestrations subtly rising under Pirnot and her acoustic guitar (stealthy and effective sound design by Mikhail Fiksel and Noel Nichols).

For a show as outwardly simple as this one, those little touches make a big difference. Oona Curley’s lighting slowly, almost imperceptibly dims over the course of an hour, until the only illumination glows from Pirnot’s laptop as the word highlighter moves across the page. It’s just the words and us in an empty space as we contemplate physical frailty, inevitable death, and love. Not bad, if that’s what Pirnot and Hnath were going for.