Hot on the heels of Some Girl(s), Buckland Theatre Company’s next offering in the Park Theatre’s 90-seater is LUV, by Murray Schisgal. Set in 1960s New York, the action takes place on a dock overlooking the city, and as the stars and Empire State Building are romantically insinuated, so does the romance blossom – and die – between our three characters. There’s Harry (a goofy Charles Dorfman), who has lost his love of life, asking the big questions to which there is no answer, and Milt (a slick Nick Barber), smooth-talking his way out of most situations, yet befuddled by his main problem – how to get rid of his wife. Harry and Milt, once friends at school, have met by chance 15 years later at the docks, and in revealing their shady purposes for being there, they resolve to help one another out. So far, so very Waiting For Godot. Except in director Gary Condes’ production, slapstick and clowning reign above all else, and whilst the pair are very funny, the choice to go stylised appeared to mask many the darker themes prevalent in LUV.
Enter Milt’s wife, Ellen (played with on-point comedy by Elsie Bennett, who’s sass and nasal New York accent was highly reminiscent of Janice from Friends).
There is much fun to be had depicting the loveless marriage between Ellen and Milt, as well as the competitive element that unfolds regarding the upbringings the trio had (all very bleak, and yet again, told in such a way that evokes humour). What ensues is a story of unfulfilled wants and desires, at a time when the American Dream (the 2.4 children, the successful career, the white picket fence) was booming. Of course, for Ellen, Harry and Milt, the reality of life, and the impossibility of achieving this (seemingly attainable) dream, renders it
anything but easy.
It turns out for Milt and Ellen that the grass is always greener; it turns out for Harry, that there is no real grass at all. It’s all very silly, in many ways: they each fall in love incredibly quickly (within a couple of bars of a ‘song’), caught up in the romance of the moment, and the dream of what could be. Indeed, as Ellen says, the tragedy of having been in love is that it takes away a woman’s dream of being in love. Perhaps it is the American Dream itself that fuels this image of love and success, whilst simultaneously providing a stark contrast to the
disappointing reality of having to constantly navigate relationships with other people (with all their habits, problems, and quirks). Food for thought – but it is the audience that must do the thinking, after the event. This fast-paced, stylised play doesn’t allow its true message sink in, and whilst it is all the funnier for it, it
is also perhaps less hard-hitting.
The three are well cast, giving confident, nuanced performances as they parody the kind of people we all love to hate. Max Dorey’s set is simple but effective, and there is a lovely sound design by Richard Hammarton. Overall, I’d say this is a fun, well-observed and tightly directed production, and if you’re looking for a chuckle, some knowing nods, and a clever script, look no further. You will certainly leave with a smile on your face – and if you leave thinking about the substance, and not just the style, I’d say you really are on to a winner.
Review by Amy Stow
Buckland Theatre Company in Association with Park Theatre presents LUV
LUV is a 1960s riotous celebration of the absurd lengths we go to when struck down with the terrible affliction known as ‘love’. After reuniting one fateful night, old school pals Milt and Harry uncover each other’s miserable life stories before hatching a plan to find their happily-ever-afters.
Come and indulge in this delightful comedy this Christmas, with its laugh out loud dialogue, physical comedy, and its infectious energy.
Written by Murray Schisgal, best known for writing the screenplay for ‘Tootsie’, LUV first premiered on Broadway in 1964 directed by Mike Nichols, where it won a number of Tony awards and nominations, among them Best Play and Best Author of a Play.
Plays until: 7 Jan 2017
Tue – Sat Evenings 19.45
Thu & Sat Matinees 15.15
Running Time: 2 hours 10 mins inc. interval