In today’s Wall Street Journal I review two Roundabout Theatre Company productions, the U.S. premiere of Mike Bartlett’s Love, Love, Love and a Broadway revival of The Cherry Orchard. Here’s an excerpt.
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The baby boomers are starting, at long last, to march off history’s stage, fervently congratulating themselves on their immortal specialness as they reluctantly quit the scene. My guess, though, is that their theatrical obituary, which will be penned by their resentful children, won’t be a warm one. Mike Bartlett, a 36-year-old British playwright who has attracted much attention on both sides of the Atlantic with “Cock” and “King Charles III,” tried his hand at writing the first draft in 2010 with “Love, Love, Love,” a serious comedy about inter-generational conflict that has nothing good to say about his parents’ generation. “Love, Love, Love” is now making its American debut courtesy of the Roundabout Theatre Company, which is presenting the play in the Laura Pels Theater, its off-Broadway house, in a production directed by Michael Mayer (“Spring Awakening”). It’s a major event: Mr. Bartlett has given us what looks on first viewing like the best stage comedy to come along since Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Thing”…
The three acts of “Love, Love, Love,” respectively set in 1967, 1990 and 2011, play like John Osborne rewritten by Neil Simon: The laughs are piled high atop one another, but they’re bracingly angry. In the first act, Sandra (Amy Ryan), a self-consciously free middle-class spirit who does her thing regardless of consequences, comes to the apartment of Henry (Alex Hurt), her working-class boyfriend, to sleep with him. Then she gets a look at Kenneth (Richard Armitage), his feckless roommate and younger brother, and decides on the spot to bed him instead—in part, I suspect, because he’s more upwardly mobile. (Kenneth landed a scholarship to Oxford, while the hard-working Henry is holding down a solid but dull job.) A quarter-century later, they’re married, monied and the parents of Rose and Jamie (Zoe Kazan and Ben Rosenfield), whose welfare they disregard when they decide on a whim to get divorced. By 2011, Kenneth and Sandra are doing just fine, but their children’s lives have been smashed by their selfishness….
“Love, Love, Love” is, in short, a morality play, but one so well made and pulverizingly funny that it hardly ever feels preachy….
Simon Godwin’s Roundabout Theatre Company revival of “The Cherry Orchard” is the most pointless production of a Chekhov play I’ve ever seen, a stylistic mélange whose ill-fitting parts give the impression of having been hammered together out of three or four different jigsaw puzzles. While the production, like the play itself, is nominally set at the dawn of the 20th century, Mr. Godwin’s clattery, hectic staging suggests an exceptionally unsubtle Chekhov-our-contemporary modern-dress version. Stephen Karam’s workmanlike new adaptation recasts the play in an unpoetic English that is scabbed over with up-to-the-second slang (“Get out!”) and given a vulgarizing shot of progressive politics…
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To read my review of Love, Love, Love, go here.
To read my review of The Cherry Orchard, go here.
A scene from Love, Love, Love, starring Zoe Kazan and Amy Ryan: