★★★★½ - Delicious+
Tune in, turn on. Drop in, and drop out.
Those two phrases should be familiar to any Boomer who had even the slightest coming-of-age brush with the 1960s. The latter is the one Mike Bartlett’s comedy “Love, Love, Love” really addresses.
From the complete freedom of sex with whomever, whenever, wherever, rock ‘n roll, trippin’ on acid, and not trusting anyone over 30, to big cars and even bigger houses? How did this generation end up here? How did we fall into the trap?
Cockroach Theatre’s regional premier of Bartlett’s play, directed by Andrew Paul, bares it all in this riveting production. Paul has mined the script, and skillfully led his cast along the bumpy, drama-filled road without ever abandoning the humor. And humor abounds.
The cast turns in stellar performances. It’s not only the timing which lands every joke, it’s in the physicality – the loose agility of the young and the slowness of age; it’s in the high clear tones of youth transitioning to a sort of raspy alto. They make it easy to get caught up in the lives of these characters.
Mindy Woodhead (Sandra) and Darren Weller (Kenneth) are both such capable performers they could have stolen the show. Perhaps Paul kept them reigned in, perhaps their professionalism kept them grounded, or perhaps Brandon Dawson (Henry/Jamie) and Aviana Glover (Rosie), their young co-stars, are a match in talent. Whatever the case, these four actors command the stage, stay invested in the scene, and fully invested in one another.
The sets by Johnmicheal Bohach and Darren Weller are astounding in the transformations. From the dumpy flat of London to the ritzy burbs of Reddington, no detail was left out. We get 60’s kitsch to flashy post-90’s affluence with particular items, like framed album covers, tagging along helping prove out the growth and upward mobility of a generation.
It’s doubtful that general audiences would notice flaws, but that’s a critic’s job, especially one who is of a certain age to have traveled the path. With so much effort put into hair, fingernails, jewelry, and set dressing it’s disappointing to have other things overlooked. Abby Stroot’s costumes are terrific, except when black spanks are visible under Woodhead’s mini-dress, and we see a wedding ring on Weller throughout the play. In the final scene, when Sandra makes note of it, Glover should have long sleeves pulled down, covering her lower arms or (in such an intimate space as the ArtSquare) we should see obvious scars of her suicide attempt.
A particular issue yanks one right out of the suspension of disbelief: The e-cigarettes land with a resounding “clack” when dropped onto a hard surface. That, too, may have faded to blissful ignorance if it wasn’t for the smoking of joints which, if not real, is done with reality. Marijuana may currently be more acceptable than tobacco, but real smoke from (fake) joints shouldn’t be any different than real smoke from a tobacco-less cigarette.
Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose, as Janis Joplin so succinctly informed us. But, as this play intimates, we may have lost plenty – maybe even ourselves – as we raised the Me generation. But, as Director Andrew Paul states in his program notes: Decide for yourselves.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday – Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday through November 19
2 p.m. Saturday, November 18
Where: Art Square Theatre, 1025 S First St, #110
Tickets: $15 - $25 (www.cockroachtheatre.com, 725- 222-9661)
Grade: ****-1/2 Delicious
Producer: Cockroach Theatre; Artistic Director: Levi Fackrell; Director: Andrew Paul; Set Design: Johnmichael Bohach, Darren Weller; Lighting Design: Eric Haufschild; Cosume Design: Abby Stroot; Production Manager: Marni Lewis; Stage Manager: Amanda Peterson