Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
The first act, The Little Comedy, is based on a short story by Austrian author and dramatist Arthur Schnitzler. Set in late 19th century Vienna, it focuses on Josephine (Laura Hodos) and Alfred (Matthew Korinko). She is a beautiful if shallow young woman who has grown weary of the predictability of a social life graciously financed by a string of wealthy lovers. He is a wealthy playboy bored by his long list of seemingly empty love affairs. At one clandestine meeting, Josephine assumes the guise of an everyday shop worker and Alfred assumes that of a poor, struggling poet. The two of them meet and fall in love ... of sorts. Since they don't really know each other, it all becomes a delicious game of secrecy. Their clever ruse is punctuated by "Him" and "Her" (Mike Westrich and Leah Sessa) who illustrate though choreography the emotional dance in which Josephine and Alfred are engaged. Westrich and Sessa also serve as maid and butler in this act, but their primary function is as a dancing Greek Chorus.
The set has an elegance that works well with the first act, and the costuming is lovely. The back and train of the gown worn by Hodos at the top of the act is stunning. Sessa and Westrich dance well together and smoothly help execute the costume changes of Korinko and Hodos. Laura Hodos has a poise and understated animation that is greatly compelling. She and Korinko sing this act particularly well, and their acting comes off with the right degree of warmth and charm. The charm is propelled mostly by Hodos, however, as it is difficult to not watch because she is so good. The staging feels natural and the stylized choreography complements the time period nicely.
The second act, Summer Share, is based on the play Le pain de ménage written in 1898 by Jules Renard. It is set in The Hamptons in the late 1980s, where two thirty-something married couples are spending the season in a rented cottage. Longtime best friends Sam (Korinko), married to Barb (Sessa), and Monica (Hodos), married to Lenny (Westrich), find themselves pondering progressing from harmless flirtation to the possibility of an illicit love affair.
This second act is problematic. The music feels dated and Korinko, though an able singer, doesn't have the right lyric sound to sell songs such as "Words He Doesn't Say." The staging and choreography for this act look and feel very deliberate and planned. After the ease of the first act, this comes as a surprise. Though Hodos gives a polished performance, whatever heat existed between her and Korinko in the first act never made its way into the second. It is also disappointing to have two such talented actors and singers such as Sessa and Westrich get so little to do in this act.
This show is a mixed bag for me. I really enjoyed the first act. It is like a perfect little musical postcard of a show. As much as I wanted to, I was never able to connect to the characters in the second act, and found it wanting in humor and warmth. Again, I found Hodos very watchable, but this time I felt she was working hard as an actress to make a dated script work for the audience. In all fairness I am aware of people who preferred the second act over the first. It is a matter of taste. So perhaps you will have to see which act speaks to your own "Romantic Notions."
Romance/Romance was initially staged Off-Off-Broadway in 1987 at the Actor's Outlet Theatre. It opened on Broadway on May 1, 1988, at the Helen Hayes Theatre, where it ran for 297 performances, and received five Tony Award nominations.
This Slow Burn Theatre Company production of Romance/Romance will be appearing through March 6, 2016, in the Abdo New River Room of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Ft. Lauderdale. For more information on Slow Burn, you may contact them by phone at 866-811-4111 FREE or visit www.slowburntheatre.com. For information about the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, call 954-462-0222 or visit www.browardcenter.org.