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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Playhouse West Presents the U.S. Premiere of Norm Foster's The Love List

Also see Richard's review of The Pavilion

Playhouse West continues it ninth season in its new home at the Dean Lesher Regional Center by presenting the United States premiere of Norm Foster's The Love List. Norm Foster is Canada's most produced playwright. There have been about 100 theatre companies in North America that have mounted productions of his plays this year. He has written 31 plays in the past 22 years and most have been popular comedies.

Artistic Director Lois Grandi has had a good working relationship with Norm Foster and has presented the world premiere of several of his comedies to great success. The playwright has the distinctive ability to create characters that are funny and entertaining. The Love List had its world premiere last month at the Thousand Island Playhouse in Cananoque, Ontario.

The Love List, a three character two act play, takes place in the present day San Francisco apartment of 50 year old Bill (David Hern), a lonely and boring statistician whose life is full of graphs and figures (like the fact that dust in an apartment is an accumulation of 75% dead skin from him and prior tenants). Bill's wife left him long ago because he is such a tiresome fellow. Leon (Jesse Caldwell), his best friend who has been around the block as far as women are concerned, is worried about his friend definitely needing a mate. The two friends come up with a list of ten attributes for the ideal woman, according to the taste of Bill.

Fantasy takes over when Leon leaves the apartment with the list and within minutes, an attractive mystery woman named Justine (Brooke Campanelli) enters the apartment with all of those great qualities. She implies she has been living and loving with Bill for years. Who is this woman and where did she come from? Have these two men created a female Frankenstein?

Once Bill learns of this new development, both men start to change the love list and make revisions to some of the qualities. Each time they do, the personality of Justine changes for the worse. This happens over a period of several weeks; many of the scenes are entertaining as we watch Justine change personalities at will. The play becomes very thought provoking and you are warned to be very careful of what you wish for.

David Hern, Jesse Caldwell and Brooke Campanelli work well together, and the timing and natural feeling among all three is masterful. There is a lot of Neil Simon-type dialogue in the banter between the men. Brooke Campanelli is splendid as the mystery woman who changes personalities at a moment's notice. She displays every emotion in the book during the two and one half hour farce.

Lois Grandi's quick direction is on the mark. However, there seem to be long pauses between scenes and this slows the tempo down occasionally. Doug Ham's set design of a San Francisco apartment is good. You know it's a San Francisco apartment since there are drawings of wine ads on the walls.

The Love List has that Neil Simon touch and snappy dialogue, though the play could be trimmed to give it a faster pace. The theme of the mystery woman is a great idea, but some of the scenes become redundant as if the playwright is milking the audience for laughs. The opening night crowd loved the play and it will be a crowd pleaser for regional companies' schedules.

The Love List continues through December 6th at the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek. For tickets, call 925-943-SHOW.

Their next production is Ronald Harwood's Taking Sides, which opens on January 23rd.


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area


- Richard Connema



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