Love/Sick

by Stu Brown

My wife and I were perplexed as we departed from the opening night of Love/Sick at Hartford’s Theaterworks, playing through June 22nd. We found the comedy/drama’s ten, short vignettes full of pseudo-conflict, unsatisfying pretenses, ineffective set-ups and, overall, unfilled potential. However, large swaths of the audience pealed with laughter during the show, seeming to be having a great time. Were the two of us having an off-night? IMHO, no.

The production’s series of 10-12 minute segments, written by John Cariani, ruminate on different aspects of love and heartbreak. They are acted by an ensemble of four actors rotating through numerous roles. The play starts off with a cute, mildly humorous story entitled, “Obsessive Impulsive,” and centers on the chance meeting of two OI individuals at the local Super Center (think Target). That is followed by, what is the best of the bunch, “The Singing Telegram,” a well-acted, tightly written scene that puts an off-kilter spin on this retro practice. Having more stories with such delicious twists would have greatly improved the thrust of the show.Think Christopher Durang or this year’s playwright du jour, Will Eno, and how they could have turned “Uh-Oh” into a deliciously delightful black comedy instead of the ending penned by Cariani with its silly cop out. A number of the vignettes are rather pedestrian and straightforward as with the runaway bride segment in “The Answer.” The wordplay in “Lunch and Dinner” falls flat and “Chicken” is just plain trite.

The group of actors -- Pascale Armand, Bruch Reed, Chris Thorn, and Laura Woodward -- approach each of their roles with gusto and zeal. But their characters come across, most of the time, as too simplified and uninteresting. Contrast this with the playwright’s wonderful contribution to last year’s Christmas on the Rocks, where in a short time span, the actors came across as fully developed individuals we cared about and sympathized with. Unfortunately, after 3/4 of the Love/Sick segments the actor’s characters begin to blend into one another. So, for example, Laura Woodward’s bride-to-be in “The Answer” is very like her overexcited persona in “Destiny.”

Director Amy Saltz employs too much yelling, whining, and manic behavior within the production. This can lead to some funny moments on stage but, overall, it gives a disproportionate feel to the show. Subtlety is not the strong suit here. Saltz might have more skillfully served the production, and further able to flesh out the scenes, if there were fewer, more thoroughly structured, scenes.

Love/Sick, at TheaterWorks in Hartford, through June 22nd.

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