Book-It Repertory Theatre returns to the short stories of late Pacific Northwest author Raymond Carver in “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” a recast, restaged encore of an earlier Book-It show.

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Book-It Repertory Theatre returns to the short stories of late Pacific Northwest author Raymond Carver in “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” a recast, restaged encore of an earlier Book-It show.

The power of Carver’s prose lies in its rigorous economy — plain-spoken declarative sentences that achieve a cumulative poignancy as they build upon one another. It’s a difficult effect to replicate on stage. In director Jane Jones’ adaptation, language that reads as intensely minimalist can skirt close to just sounding trite.

Thankfully, the four actors retain the stories’ complexity with their ambivalent, shifting performances.

Theater review

‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Love’

By Raymond Carver, adapted by Jane Jones. Through Oct. 18. Book-It Repertory Theatre at Center Theatre, Seattle Center; $25-$40 (206-216-0833 or book-it.org).

Of the four stories presented, the titular one is probably the most representative of Carver’s preoccupations. Two couples (Kevin McKeon and Carol Roscoe, Andrew DeRycke and Tracy Hyland) sit around, guzzling gin and discussing the meaning of love. A regretful, rueful McKeon captivates as he expounds on love’s seemingly contradictory transience and durability.

“The Student’s Wife” sees an impish Hyland testing husband DeRycke’s patience with various bedtime requests, before she’s suddenly gripped by existential panic.

“Intimacy,” more obvious than most Carver, has novelist McKeon visiting estranged wife Roscoe, truth and reconciliation bookending emotional fireworks.

The high point here is “Cathedral.” Hyland and DeRycke welcome her older blind friend (McKeon) for a visit. Initially sullen about an unwanted houseguest, DeRycke gradually comes to accept him, accessing a more open-minded version of himself.

As he works to help the blind man understand what a cathedral looks like, his catharsis is stirring — a tangible expression of the effect of Carver’s best writing.