Love, Love, Love 😰 Theatre Review

Written by Thelonia

The writing is quick and clean but the characters themselves are messy, sloppy, and often sloppy drunk. Love, Love, Love is a look at a family throughout decades, as baby boomers from the 60s get children and grow and create neurotic, damaged children of their own as we look at the question: how responsible for their children are parents?

As soon as I entered the theater I heard the unmistakable sound of "What's New Pussycat" blasting, which briefly made me wonder if I was dreaming. The usher was singing (and bopping) along as she handed me the program.

That song didn't exist for me outside of an excellent stand-up routine. Up till now.
As I waited for the curtain to rise, the songs continued on in what was a frantic google-ing of lyrics, but for a lot of the (older) audience, it was like karaoke night at a bar: they were singing along and bobbing to songs I'd only theoretically heard of. Lulu's "To Sir With Love," which is a song that gets really creepy when you're in a theater with a bunch of septuagenarians singing along with so much emotion.

The play itself was set in three parts, each act taking place in different decades, in snapshot scenes of one family in England. The first act takes place the night of the first live International TV broadcast (in 1967), the second takes place in the late 80s, and the last act was in 2010 (notable for the inclusion of the David Guetta and Akon collab "Sexy Bitch," which got cut off right before it hit the chorus, which made me a bit sad. If the audience got so excited about "To Sir With Love," I wonder still what they would have done with that masterpiece of a chorus.)

Something tells me they would. Love. It.
The cast itself is rather small: only being made up of 5 actors (though one disappears after the first act, only to return in the third as an urn). First and foremost in the show and in my heart, ex-dwarfen King Richard Armitage (whom I can neither confirm nor deny has been photoshopped with my by my co-blog writer Tia, that'd be ridiculous, why are you even bringing that up how did you even find out about that.)
Nice try, you'll need to work harder for access to that blackmail material.

He plays Kenneth, a nineteen year old layabout off from Oxford who spends the entire first act messing with his older brother Henry and then stealing his pot-smoking girlfriend (well, almost-sort of) Sandra. My main impression of the act was that I was supposed to be a lot more familiar with both the time and place than I was, since I missed about eight setting hints that the audience laughed appropriately at, probably due to my not being British or over 50.
The main thing this act prepares you for, and does so in quite a subtle way (which is good, because what follows is as far from subtle as you get), is uncomfortable family time.

By the second act, we have jumped about twenty odd years, and Kenneth and Sandra have two teenage children. They are quickly established to be not-great parents, Sandra chugging wine and Kenneth blanking on several aspects of her daughter's life, including her age (it's the night of her fifteenth - no sixteenth birthday). Rosie is way more uptight than either of her parents, and her younger brother [] is more interested in getting back at her by telling her about how her boyfriend cheated on her than seemingly do anything else.

This act was the strongest: the dialogue was short, quick, and to the point, and more importantly, the two leads were closest to their actual ages, which meant they weren't spending quite so much time and energy trying to play an age, rather just inhabiting their roles as characters.

The last act, in which the family get together for the first time in a while (for Henry's funeral), was when the dialogue turned heavy. Instead of snippy dialogue, the text grew longer and longer with several long "this is the condition of the world as I see it" monologues that feel like the conclusion of a mediocre essay, when you run out of arguments and just summarize your main point to make sure the reader has understood. While it did help understanding the play, by providing an annotated version that made it easy to get the broader themes of the play. Rosie, the daughter, goes on a (admittedly, to my generation, cathartic) rant about how the baby boomer generation ruined everything and expects their children to just pull themselves up by their bootstraps like they did (which, she keeps saying, is impossible, because they're not allowing anyone else to get the opportunity), and then Sandra goes on a (much less enthralling to me) rant about how technology has ruined their children & their generation. This message is a bit undercut by the fact that the problem child they are talking about is the one you never see on your phone, who deleted her Facebook, and who has been apparently doing nothing but playing the violin for most of her life.

I own those glasses and I don't know how to feel about it. Am I already my own terrible Mother?
The "young people and technology" message is generally summed up by third act Jamie acting borderline brain-damaged and being solely focused on his phone as opposed to his sister  a pre-occupation. This was a bit undercut by the fact that the audience (most of whom seemed to have been over 60) just could not figure out how to turn off their phones, as about five different times throughout the play, someone in my general area's phone went off, and then let it ring its full course, since they didn't know how to turn it off. So basically, you can complain to me about how terrible kids and their phones are, when you manage to stop all the older people who cannot control their own phones.

Overall, Love, Love, Love is a play that bites off a bit more than it can chew, but that's only something that becomes apparent when it tries to become more explanatory than it needs to be.Writer Mike Bartlett could use more of an editor, and should try to resist the urge to explain what he's just written. It can stand by itself, if you just let it. And nostalgia may make for a better play than what is essentially an argument I have with my family every few weeks anyhow.

Love, Love, Love is playing at the Laura Pels Theatre in NYC through December 18th.

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