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A CurtainUp Review

by Les Gutman
No one who loves fucking would get married.

T. Jones and K. Miller
T. Jones and K. Miller
(Photo: Andrew Eccles)
I recently reread Contours in Time, Travis Bogard's excellent bio-criticism of the intertwined life and work of Eugene O'Neill. It is remarkable in its explication of the plays (so many of which are autobiographical) and the way in which they wrestle with, and ultimately conquer, the playwright's demons. ("Long Day's Journey Into Night was the play he had been trying to write from the outset of his career, its achievement was his raison d'être as an artist. A Moon for the Misbegotten was an essential coda, an act of love, of charity and of contrition.")

It occurs to me now, although it didn't really at the time, that all autobiography is self-indulgent. So to use that label in describing David Rosenthal's Love is not to single it out. What differentiates Love is that it is not a great play -- indeed it is barely a play at all, rather being more of a rant with characters. Rosenthal was a TV sitcom superstar writer who made buckets of money, got married and realized he hated his life -- for among other reasons because his libido rendered him not the "marrying kind". Love is the sort of painful playing out psychiatrists get paid to listen to.

It's not clear if Rosenthal is somehow being healed by his writing -- there's certainly no act of contrition. The playwright, who comes out to speak to the audience at the end of each performance, is impressed with the rawness of his work -- a euphemism for using the "F word" a lot, it seems -- and for writing a play in which the characters speak "feelings" rather than "thoughts". That, it seems, is a euphemism for not having a lot of enlightenment to offer, for Love certainly doesn't unearth much that hasn't been said, and better, before. In its three scenes, we meet, first, Kate (Kate Miller), a woman whose cockiness belies her vulnerabilities and who idolizes women like Madonna and Hillary Clinton, then David (Ty Jones), the playwright, who is obsessed with sex and who thinks finding his inner woman will help him get laid (and whose religious notions tend toward the "we are god" school) and, finally, the couple together.

It can't be said there are not moments of poetry in what Rosenthal has written -- and his scenes of the dating ritual between the pair bring their share of knowing laughs -- but the whole is repetitive and tiresome. We all know the power some people find in the word "fuck," and we may smile for a while hearing it employed in all of its variations, but this, too, is hardly original or shocking. When he employs interactivity with the audience, things fall decidedly flat. Much more would be required to prompt couples to turn to each other and express how they feel about one another. It plays out as a pathetic "I know how you people really feel so go ahead and admit it".

The two performers can't be faulted here. Although Miller seems a bit less comfortable in her pose than Jones -- he is also the more engaging -- both go through the spunky pacing director Dan Fields has established with aplomb. Michael Brown's sets are expensive-looking and nothing less than snazzy, often lit by Russell Champa to evoke the hip, shadowy feel of an upscale dance club.

Rosenthal has a great deal on his mind, and probably an even greater need to get it off of his chest and talk to someone about it. The story goes that Rosenthal's father had him involuntarily committed after reading this play. That seems like a dramatic over-reaction to his problems, but it does seem like he ought to be paying someone (a professional) to listen to all of this, rather than asking amateurs to pay.

by David S. Rosenthal
Directed by Dan Fields
with Ty Jones and Kate Miller
Set Design: Michael Brown
Costume Design: Louisa Thompson
Lighting Design: Russell H. Champa
Sound Design: Robert Murphy
Running Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes including no intermission
East 13th Street Theater, 136 East 13th Street (3/4 Avs)
Telephone (212) 307 - 4100
Opening September 20, 2001, closing date not announced
MON - THURS @8, FRI - SAT @7 and 10; $35 (students with valid ID 2 hours before performances, $10) NO ONE UNDER 17 ADMITTED!
Reviewed by Les Gutman based on 9/20/01 performance

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