John Cariani’s “Love/Sick” at TheaterWorks Hartford thru June 22

By Tom Nissley

I’m sorry! I’m really sorry. Oh no! I’m so sorry, but my impulse is just to rush and embrace this play. Of course I’m a compulsive play person who likes to watch every play that’s out there and I like to play, too, and OMG I love this play. Is that sick? I looked up what I thought could be my diagnosis on GOOGLE, and there is nothing there about Obsessive Impulsive Disorder. So I looked again, and again. Just checking. But anyway, I have to go, but I’m sorry, and I have to have one more helping of “Love/Sick” right now!

John Cariani’s new play about young couples who meet, greet, and, um, engage, among the shelves of the nearby Super Store -- central to his “alternate suburban reality” -- and in other spaces familiar to us: the garage, the basement, the bathroom or kitchen, the living room or bedroom, the front (or maybe closet) door; brings four exquisite actors together for short scenes that reflect contemporary coupledom in places where it sometimes hurts, sometimes heals, and consistently entertains.

From a plunge into two shoppers who fall in love at first glance and can’t stop kissing each other even while apologizing and diving back for more [this scene with Bruch Reed and Laura Woodward is exceptional for writing, acting, and direction] to a singing telegram scene [two different actors, Pascale Armand and Chris Thorn, also in a remarkable scene, perfectly executed] to two men forging a new relationship, to two women maintaining a strained one, to a bride who can’t go down the aisle, to a couple who forgot to have a baby, Cariani has touched upon many aspects of life as it occurs in the world around us.

The ensemble team of actors, writer, and director (Amy Saltz), with help from sets (Michael Schweikart), lighting (Mary Jo Donlinger) and costumes (Harry Nadal), have delivered a classy production of this new play. It has been produced a few times before, but Cariani is still doing some touch-up work to an incredibly complex script. “It looks simple,” he told me, “but it isn’t.” Right.

I loved the scene with two men trying to say and hear “I love you” clearly. Just one of Bruch Reed’s super moments. His persona changed subtly with each new shirt or pair of shoes that went with the new character. But he also told me about the re-writes, and that John Cariani specifically did not want broad dialogue variations, aiming for natural, which in fact was there for all four actors. Chris Thorn also held steady beautifully in his roles. I admired his dedication to the butter cream frosting on a home-made cake with thirty-five candles. And you will too.

If possible, don’t let this be the play you missed this season. It’s too good. Pascale Armand knowing that her boyfriend is sending flowers and a singing telegram to propose to her. Bruch Reed fearing for life when Armand creates a splashy way to kill off boredom. Laura Woodward as a bride still waiting. Chris Thorn finding an ex (Armand) in the Super Store. Great stuff. Memorable and fun.

Tickets and information at www.theaterworkshartford.org, or telephone 860-527-7838.

Tom Nissley for the Ridgelea Reports on Theatre. Posted May 24, 2014

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