David S. Rosenthal is a veteran of many television comedy shows including The Arsenio Hall Show, Ellen, and Spin City. The jump from television to theatre is hardly an easy one, and what you may expect from Love, Rosenthal's new play at the East 13th Street Theatre, is not what you get. A romantic evening at the theatre Love is not. In fact, the title of the play aside, there is little in Love that has to do explicity with love.
Oh, each of the play's two characters talks about it, and its relationship to a number of things (primarily sex, of course), but if you're searching for a play that will expound on the time-honored impressions of love generated by the timeless works of great artists like William Shakespeare, you're looking in the wrong place. If, however, you are interested in a more modern take on relationships, you might find much more of value here. Love, however, is a difficult play to feel much affection for; its first two scenes see to that.
Only the woman, Kate (Kate Miller) appears in the first scene, and only the man, David (Ty Jones) in the second, but each gives a very similar talk. Their primary subject matter is love, or perhaps more appropriately, sex. Kate is unafraid to acknowledge that she has what every man in the audience wants in one way, and what every woman in the audience wants in another. David is likewise open about his feelings, referring to himself as a woman and calling manhood an illusion.
Both scenes are written to be confrontational and break traditional boundaries, but the almost constant stream of obscenities spewed from Kate's lips, or David's confusing (and mostly unnecessary) lapses into another character (that of Rosenthal himself, even using his name) are more staid than shocking. Worse, it does little to establish these characters as real people. Kate seems less familiar than David only because a black man talking about sex is a more accepted (and employed stereotype), one Rosenthal, unfortunately, does not shy away from using.
The play redeems itself, if only slightly, in the third scene, where David and Kate meet and carry out their relationship. Told with very few words, and in a rhythmic way, it is in a very different style of language from the first two scenes, and almost seems to belong in a different play. The scene is entertaining to watch and listen to, but does little beyond describe a problem of communication between the sexes. David and Kate's characters, having never been fully fleshed out, do little to assist.
Director Dan Fields, with the help of Michael Brown's minimal but effective sets and Russell H. Champa's creative lighting, never lets the play get away from him. He always maintains the proper atmosphere, and sets the scene, whether a club, a character's interior thoughts, or the theater itself, with great flair. Unfortunately, he never succeeds at really making us care about the characters, either - Fields's staging techniques and the actors' decent performances can only cover up an insufficient script so much.
Love is not without its creativity, but Rosenthal never finds a way to harness it for any use other than strict shock value (and then, only in the first scene). Love is confrontational, harsh, and frequently interesting, but never electric or insightful. No lessons you need to learn about love will be learned during this play.
Play All Day Productions