Friday, May 21, 2010

Sometimes The Title Is The Worst Thing

Unspeakably Beautiful Poetry At Times Brilliantly Executed—So why does it have to be called LOVE SONG?

By Russ Bickerstaff
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For the second time in as many weeks, I ended up sitting next to the Boulevard Theatre’s Mark Boucher for a show. I ended up falling into a brief exchange about the nature of theatre with him . . . and mentioning something about how odd it is to see one’s own writing onstage. (An experience I get to have again tonight at the opening of the next Pink Banana Shorts program.

The lights fell and the play settled-in and the whole thing was pretty linguistically dazzling. The play in question is Soulstice Theatre’s production of Love Song. Having never heard of the playwright John Kolvenbach before, I had little idea of what to expect aside from some pretty well-written comic dialogue as seen in the portions of the script that are available for free online.

The title didn’t help matters at all. It’s difficult to imagine a title more generic than Love Song. It’s a title as nondescript as a piece of shirt cardboard . . . the shrink wrapping on a particularly brilliant, unspeakably beautiful script. Yes, the play’s about love, but it touches on so much about the subject that is so rarely executed with any kind of competence by most writers.

It’s been said that really good romantic love is simply a matter of finding someone with compatible psychoses. Love Song sort of explores that and goes much, much further. The poetry in the script never feels forced. Everything flows across the stage quite naturally.

Much of the success of that has to do with the production co-directors Char Manny and Josh Perkins are working with a really good cast here. Liz Mistele is one of my favorite actresses and she’s perfectly cast here as the love interest of an existentially troubled guy named Beane. Jillian Smith plays Beane’s sister Joan with the right kind of finesse to come across as something of a dragon lady at the beginning of the play and kind nurturing sister later on . . .  

The guys in the play I hadn’t been as familiar with having not seen them onstage nearly as much. Jason Thompson is asked to carry quite a bit in this play without speaking and in places he does a pretty good job of doing so . . . in places he’s brilliant. Matthew Michaelis plays Joan’s husband with a kind of fresh-pressed charm. With any luck, Michaelis and Thompson will show-up in more show in he near future. This is really is a very good cast executing a brilliant script.   

Soulstice Theatre’s Love Song runs through June 5th at the Marian Center on 3195 South Superior Street. A comprehensive review of the show appears in next week’s Shepherd-Express.  

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