If you need to be uplifted, you couldn’t find a better tonic for your mental state than the Cincinnati Playhouse’s regional premiere of John Kolvenbach’s Love Song, a quirky, contemporary, romantic comedy. With characters and situations that would fit perfectly in a Seinfeld episode, this show uses a spot-on cast and a deceptively simple set that will surely charm audiences.
Love Song’s success derives from a story full of surprising and unexpected twists and turns that would be a shame to reveal, and I won’t. But let me tell you this much: Beane (Joseph Parks) is a soft-spoken young hermit, steadily withdrawing from life, much to the consternation of his workaholic sister Joan (Gabra Zackman). Her anxiety is not limited to her brother: She is impatient with co-workers, not to mention her laid-back husband Harry (Mark Boyett) who fends her off with a gentle sense of humor and quick-witted banter. But when Beane’s all-but-vacant apartment is burglarized by a feisty young woman named Molly (Amy Tribbey), his verbose, demonstrative reaction is unexpected, and its ripples affect everyone.
Beane’s possessions are comically minimal. Molly steals a coffee mug and a spoon, a coat and a hat. His loft is furnished with nothing more than an armchair and a floor lamp with a bare light bulb that flickers on and off. In his desperation, Beane feels the world closing in on him, and thanks to Narelle Sissons’ scenic design, that literally happens in a memorable claustrophobic moment. The set also uses numerous trap doors for smooth, clever transitions from Beane’s Spartan space to Joan’s sleek urban apartment.
Kolvenbach writes staccato dialogue in the vein of a comic David Mamet, and Michael Evan Haney’s fluid direction keeps this 90-minute piece light and entertaining. But this kind of emotional evolution is not often found in contemporary comedies. This play emanates a profound, optimistic Love Song about overcoming fear and diving into life.
For more on Love Song, see my recent interview with Kolvenbach.
LOVE SONG, presented by the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, continues through Nov. 21. Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.