LOVE/SICK KEEPS US LAUGHING/CRYING AT MODERN RELATIONSHIPS
By Diana Insolio
Love/Sick, currently at TheaterWorks in Hartford, written by John Cariani and directed by Amy Saltz, shows us just how practical we have become in our approach to couple relationships. Blind romance as we knew it in the last century is as dead as Nietzsche’s god. In its place is a psychologically informed struggle to make love work after Cupid’s dizzying wound has healed and been forgotten.
Love/Sick is a series of fast-paced single-scene plays that begins as Cupid strikes two lonely strangers wandering through the neighborhood SuperCenter a Costco-like store cleverly referenced throughout the script. The strangers lock eyes and kiss, and then begin to speak in perfect unison, the playwright’s auditory metaphor for the merging of souls experienced in the first throes of love. Are they falling in love, or is it the “obsessive-impulsive” disorder they both have which makes them think they are in love even though they know better? “Our prescribed plans for wellness don’t allow this, for us to fall in love at first sight,” the man says. “We probably don’t love each other because we can’t think it through,” the woman agrees, “and I think that’s part of being in love, understanding what comes after the first-sight part.”
The plays that follow, faced-paced and often hilarious, offer glimpses of “what comes after” as couples date, marry, and have children. Sometimes love is lost and sometimes it nearly dies of boredom but always the couples’ struggles are delivered with humor and hope. Each story presents a different couple, who, under the direction of Amy Saltz, and superbly acted by Pascale Armand, Bruch Reed, Chris Thorn, and Laura Woodward, remain distinct from one another even as they portray conflicts common to everyone who has ever entered a love relationship. We see a bride and groom holed up in a bathroom just as their wedding is about to begin, the bride panicked by the thought that, given divorce statistics, marriage is supremely risky business, the groom blindfolded so that he might avoid seeing the bride before the ceremony. The bride realizes she’s been swept up in planning the wedding without ever asking herself what she and her fiance now realize is the most important question -- whether they want to marry knowing that they will either divorce or be “stuck” with the other for the rest of their lives.
In another play, Mary and Bill, married for more than a year, find themselves on a Friday night sitting side by side concentrated on their respective ipads. Mary, bored senseless, tells Bill that she has read on the internet that boredom is a dangerous thing that can lead a person to murder “the people they love most.” The story’s ending involves a gun purchased by Mary at the SuperCenter and Bill’s promise that he will never stop trying to keep the marriage interesting. In “Lunch and Dinner” Kelly and Mark, each home after a long workday, exchange pleasantries in the polite but automatic cadences of a long-married couple. Things liven when Mark asks Kelly what she had for lunch and Kelly, buried in her cellphone messages, answers “sex” when she should have said “quiche.” Mark is particularly upset by this Freudian slip because his lunch consisted of a mere meatball sandwich. In “Where Was I” Cariani casts a compassionate eye on what it takes to raise children as Liz and Abby, a lesbian couple, fight about their division of labor (Abbie is a stay-at-home mom, Liz is the wage earner) and then realize that it not the type but the amount of work that it takes to raise and support a family that has made each invisible to the other.
The relationship story comes full circle in the final play as two ex-spouses meet in an aisle of the SuperCenter, learn that their respective subsequent marriages have ended, and contemplate whether to get together again. As they depart, the man and woman from the first play enter from different directions, lock eyes and gasp as if falling in love at first sight. That’s the thing about Cupid. The divorce rate doesn’t discourage him.
Love/Sick, TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford, CT (860) 527-7838. www.theaterworkshartford.org. Through June 22, 2014.