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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

Love is Love in Bloom at Village Theatre

Also see David's review of Gay Men's Chorus' Home For the Holidays

Love is Love
Maggie Stenson, Charity Parenzini;
(below) Ann Evans, Shelly Burch

Despite bumps and roadblocks along the way in two previous developmental productions, Love is Love, the new musical revue conceived and directed by Martin Charnin currently at Village Theatre's First Stage is a generally charming and pleasing package of monologues and songs about the many kinds of love, from a female viewpoint.

A major and welcome change in this version of Love is Love is the inclusion of additional songs by composer/lyricist Richard Gray (some in collaboration with Charnin). The show is introduced by the ebullient cast with a jaunty title song, and the score really only disappoints once with a cipher of a second act opener, "Goin' Green," which seems to have very little real connection to the rest of the show. But the rest of the show is loaded with music that captivates and lyrics that tickle the funnybone or warm the heart, as required. The monologues (most of them brand new pieces especially tailored for the show) are not as consistently winning as the score, but the best of them provide solid acting opportunities for Charnin's quartet of winning women.

The radiant Shelly Burch is expressive and utterly natural in her two monologues, "Truly, Madly, Guiltily" by Ayelet Waldman, in which a woman admits she loves her husband more than their newborn child, and "Reunion" (by Richard Reiss), a rumination on having to take a tough love approach with a child who is sent off to wilderness camp and boarding school. Burch also scores handsomely with her featured vocal solos the Gray/Charnin piece "Long Story Short" and especially "We Would Have Been Fine," a contemplative number about a woman's affecting encounter with a past lover (featuring both music and lyrics by Charnin). The quirky Charity Parenzini has a zingy solo in which she claims "Dibs" on a wide range of men, and a show-stealing comic monologue, "Share Our Joy." Maggie Stenson shows off a solid emotional range in her two monologues. "An Act of Will" is laced with comic irony, and "Learning to Spell" is a warm piece about online adoptions, but the attractive actress singer shines brightest in her featured number "8:45" in which the long married Mr. and Mrs. Powers plan their anniversary by email. Rounding out the quartet, veteran Seattle actress Ann Evans gets a welcome chance to explore her comic side with the great "June Bride" number (in which the big day arrives in a same-sex union) and in a giddy Charnin-penned monologue, "The Note on Pete's Bed."

Choreographer Dannul Dailey provides some simple yet satisfying steps for the ladies, and musical director Dwight Beckmeyer provides bright and bouncy musical support from his trio of musicians. Scenic and lighting design by Alex Berry is simple and handsome, and the use of projections was adroit. Deane Middleton's costumes are attractive and neutral enough to facilitate the actresses various changes of characters.

Like the revue A My Name is Alice which it rather resembles, it is not hard to imagine Love is Love with a few more tweaks (and more songs, please) having a prosperous run Off-Broadway and in smaller venues across the country.

Love is Love runs through December 16. 2007 at Village Theatre's First Stage, 120 Front Street North in Issaquah, WA. For more information visit www.villagetheatre.org.


Photo: Dan Achetz



- David Edward Hughes



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