“I would let [insert name here] ruin my life” is a phrase that anyone who’s radiated their eyes with thirsty comments online over the past few years will recognize as a hallmark of the genre. What does it mean? If Dex (Michael Vizzi) and Shellie (Allison Plott) feel that way about each other in Leslye Headland’s The Layover–a total masterpiece, ultimately just as devastating as it is hot–presented by The Comrades under Drew Shirley’s direction, as I contend they do, what does that feeling entail? Is it a disease? Is that, heaven help us, what love is now?
If I would let you ruin my life, I’m obviously looking for trouble already. Dex’s engagement to Andrea (Emma Jo Boyden) is over the second he sits down with Shellie at the bar in O’Hare after their Thanksgiving flight gets cancelled. You get the sense he would have let anyone ruin his life, given half the chance. Shellie’s life is practically in ruins already–she’s the full-time caregiver to an epileptic father (the amazing Jim Morley), unhappily married, tied down in every sense. She’s got a fair bit of one of Headland’s other protagonists in her: Natasha Lyonne’s character in the Netflix series Russian Doll, which Headland cocreated with Lyonne and Amy Poehler.
Dex, Shellie, and Lyonne’s Nadia Vulvokov are all alike–deacons in the church of “ruin my life.” But crack that pained thought open, and you see what it really is saying: I would let you kindle these dead nerve endings again. I would let you see if I’m still here. v