If you ask me…

- Tom Holehan

“Love/Sick” by Cariani at TheaterWorks

Playwright John Cariani’s winning formula of exploring relationships through a series of short playlets is at it again with “Love/Sick”, the author’s charming follow-up to his enormously popular “Almost, Maine”, currently one of the most produced plays in the country. This latest collection, like “Almost, Maine” before it, is now on the boards at TheaterWorks in Hartford where it has found a happy home.

Briskly directed briskly by Amy Saltz and crowded with talent in its four-person cast, “Love/Sick” explores the roles of fate, destiny and chemistry in meeting that special someone as well as that eternal battle between men and women. Both straight and gay couples are given the Cariani treatment which consists of observing sex and human nature in a series of ten short plays within a two-act story structure. There is, to be sure, a tendency for the playwright to repeat himself here with topics like infidelity and the question of having children that are thrown into the mix more than once. Few, if any, of the couples are truly happy in these often bittersweet vignettes, but they may be wiser at the end and that’s worth noting.

The cast, which was recently recognized by the Connecticut Critics Circle as this year’s “Outstanding Ensemble”, are well-deserving of the award. They switch roles, costumes and personalities with ease and are often featured in back-to-back playlets. Pascale Armand, Bruch Reed, Chris Thorn and Laura Woodward all excel with Armand, perhaps, making the most memorable impression. In one vignette she plays an excitable young woman, clearly in love, who is about to be dumped by her unseen boyfriend via a singing telegram. Armand, in a few short minutes, manages to go from exhilaration to heartbreak to some kind of peace and make it all totally believable.

The evening begins on a silly and gloriously funny high with Woodward and Reed playing a pair of obsessive compulsives who meet in a supermarket and begin to loudly shout the exact same dialogue at each other between extreme make-out sessions. They are hilarious. Also fine is Thorn and Reed playing a gay couple making their first tentative steps towards a relationship. It is also one of the few connections in the play that seems to suggest a possible happy ending.

As noted, there’s some repetition here and there with some works quite obviously stronger than others. Cariani might have done better to trim “Love/Sick” to six or seven playlets and done it all in one act under 90 minutes. But director Saltz still deserves credit for her seamless, energized work aided by the simple but effective set design of Michael Schweikardt and Harry Nadal’s astute costuming. “Love/Sick” is a polished, entertaining evening that seems an appropriate kick-off to the upcoming summer season.

“Love/Sick” continues at TheaterWorks in Hartford through June 22. For ticket reservations call 860.527.7838 or visit: www.theaterworkshartford.org.

Tom Holehan is one of the original founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.

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