‘Tongue’ anatomy 

Life and death, love and happiness — these are the pursuits that have obsessed mankind for generations. Now they manifest in two pithy, oneact plays being staged at the University of Central Oklahoma.

Written in 1978 by Sam Shepard and Joseph Chaikin, “Tongues” and “Savage Love” originally were performed by the playwrights themselves.

The works traditionally are presented as a collection of poetry accented by percussion with simple sets, and short, to-the-point dramatics meant to allow the actors to experiment with stage directions and movement.

Performed in conjunction, the complementary pieces create a dynamic duo portraying the plight of the common man and the universal truths of human existence. Usually performed by a solitary actor backed by a percussionist, this particular performance will feature three: Tyler Pipkin, Chaurley Hembree and Brittany Johnson.

The cast has given them a contemporary makeover, updating the original material to a more modern feel, while staying true to the minimalist motif.

Director Daisy Nystul said the student actors strove to give “Tongues” a “strong MTV flavor,” while “Savage Love” is “inspired by the homemade valentines I made as a child to give my classmates.”

To her, the “art-and-craft production elements signify the purity and simplicity of love.” This simplicity is meant to juxtapose the complicated questions the plays address.

Viewers will want to keep an eye out for the unique ways in which the performers have revamped the themes to make them relevant for today’s audiences, even if some elements never change, such as the meaning of life.

“These questions have no concrete answer,” Nystul said, “despite the fact that many individuals have strong convictions — some based in science, some in religion and some in spirituality.”

The complex nature of the material means that “Tongues” and “Savage Love” are ideal for theatergoers who enjoy engaging, thought-provoking drama. Audiences will no doubt find the dynamic duo to be a reminder that we are all human together, and that we share a common interest in pursuing true love.

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