Monday, August 15, 2011

Love Song: playing at the Charlestown Working Theater

Love Song
playing at the Charlestown Working Theater
Presented by Orfeo Group

Reviewed by Amy R. Tighe

The brain, they say, is the organ most useful for sexual pleasure. But what is it in ourselves that calls us to even want connection or desire? What part of the brain tells us we want any kind of intercourse, whether it be social, sexual or spiritual?

Love Song is a terse, fitful and thoroughly enjoyable exploration of a man seeking and finding connection but the play begs the question: with whom?

Produced by Orfeo Group, a local and vibrant Boston-based nonprofit theater company, and playing at the Charlestown Working Theatre through August 27th, Love Song brings you to the edge where the only choice you have is to fall, in love.

Bean is an isolated man with some sort of psychological illness ( the playwright does not tell us which, exactly.) His extreme yuppie sister and her equally extreme husband try to help, tolerate and care for him with various degrees of success. One night a female burglar breaks into his dark room and catapults him on a search for connection.

The uber yuppie couple are wonderfully played by Daniel Berger-Jones and Liz Hayes. Harry is a dream, plying his wife with logic and at the same time, too much wine and Joan, his wife and Bean's sister, shows us that insanity can indeed run in families --it's just that some people are better making a living at it than others. Daniel Berger-Jones doubles as a waiter, and shows us a solid range in his performances. In one scene, Harry breaks down from his rapid fire responses to Joan's neediness and it's one of the better moments in the play--it's a real moment where you experience the beginning of a real falling.

Joan, played by Liz Hayes, has a more limited range. She is believable as a woman stuck on high maintenance and few nuances, and Hayes brings us into the character with humor, skill and ease.

Bean, the brother, is a very complex character and Gabriel Kuttner gives a wonderful performance urging us into the slow, steady and smart logic in Bean's very skewed thinking. Kuttner portrays the sanity and insanity of reaching out while living in a world that threatens you without logic. Molly, the angry and tortured burglar who invades Bean's home and mind, is intense and heated. Georgia Lyman invites you into a harsh character and shows her transformation flawlessly into a love puppy and then a warrior-like Muse, which allows us to hope that even we can find love. Lyman is stunning as a guide to the edge of love.

The acting is strong, the characters are clear and the troupe plays off each other with lemon sharp precision. John Kolvenbach's writing is bright, intelligent and speedy- no sleeping on this road or you will miss entire villages of conversation. The pacing is electric, which was fun for the first 2/3 of the play, but after that, I was getting burnt out. Bean's mental illness, played by a lamp and ceiling, was interesting at first, but by the third episode, was not impressive.

I loved the setting of the Charlestown Working Theatre for this performance. To get to my seat, I had to cross the stage-- talk about intercourse! The theatre itself is an old firehouse, and feels cozy inside a storm. The set design was crisp, and brought an immediate intimacy to the performance.

Orfeo's mission is to "thrill" and maybe I am not sure what that means. This was not a thrilling piece of work, to me-- it was solid, enjoyable, rich and ripe. I loved the message Orfeo sends as a company: Risher Reddick, director of Love Song, announced that every Thursday night was free ticket night, Fridays are "date nights", Saturdays are surprise nights and after Sunday performances, there is a BBQ. Orfeo as a company wants to "reduce the distance between people through shared experiences of audacious art." What I enjoyed most of all is a talented troupe taking on a primal quest and asking us to not be a witness, but to fall with them, into the journey of connection. Definitely go see it.

Love Song
written by John Kolvenback
directed by Risher Reddick
presented by Orfoe Group
at the Charletown Working Theatre
from August 4 to August 27, tix $20, some free tix available
call Ovation Tix at 866-811-4111
Thur, Fri, Sat 8 pm, Sun 2 pm.

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