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A CurtainUp Review
LoveSick or Things That Don’t Happen

This is my band. And the really awesome thing about my band, is they’re not just musicians, they’re also actors – because everyone knows you can’t make a living off just one job in new York. A few of them also have sex for money. Just kidding. Talk to me after the show for more of that. . .We’re here tonight to talk about love. Which, considering everything else that’s going on, well. . .that’s pretty fucking shallow, don’t you think?
—Narrator, Michael Nathanson.
Jeff Tuohy, Joachim Boyle, Michael Nathanson in Background
(Photo: Matthew Murray)
LoveSick or Things That Don’t Happen, is a snappy new anti-romantic musical at 59E59 Theaters. Playwright Lia Romeo carved a sharp Cupid’s arrow aimed at a young modern audience in a musical consisting of seven individual mini-plays and eight songs, all taking place on the often dreaded Valentine's Day.

LoveSick zooms in on young urbanites craving love and finding it in a variety of forms, with no promises of “happily ever after.” What can a high school coed do when she is, omigod, dumped just before prom? Or what about the straight bride who doesn’t know that her groom is gay? And there are those two bridesmaids who slept with the groom, and not just once either? These are just a few of the conundrums in the world of young love.

This part rock concert/part theater musical is a Project Y Theater Company production conceived and directed by Michole Biancosino whose brother, Tony Biancosino (producer of Top Chef, The Marriage Ref ), wrote the pop/rock music and lyrics. Each song has some connection to love and is performed as the actors step out of character to play with the band.

Most of the light skits are clever, at times hilarious, with some unexpected touching moments. Aside from the emotional collisions of these couplings, humor comes from the absurd predictability of the romantic turmoils. There are also the expected giggles at the dialogue between these vocabulary-challenged characters. The same words, and you know what they are, provoke nervous audience laughter each time they are repeated. Don't expect to hear the language of Oscar Wilde here. This is the zeitgeist of today’s young adults.

Fourteen enthusiastic talents deliver convincing characterizations in the separate vignettes. Actor/singer Michael Nathanson performs as narrator, delivering anecdotes between plays, engaging the audience, and making lame jokes. He is the show's loose, fidgety anchor who keeps the pace flowing.

Jessica Varley is cute and vulnerable as Amy, the distraught, rejected teen who threatens to kill herself though all she really wants is love and attention. Aiden Sullivan and Melissa Hammans are two bridesmaids dishing about the wedding and toasting each other with champagne. Gradually, the drinking gets harder, the comments turn snarky and some nasty truths are shared, including the confession that one of the bridesmaids put arsenic in the wedding cake. . .but just a little.

Cheers! involves groom Doug (Joachim Boyle) and best man Brad (Jeff Touhy), who step into a hotel elevator to zoom up to Doug’s wedding when suddenly, the elevator has a mishap, a scary one. In their panic, confessions are shared, the groom-to-be admitting he really loves Brad while Brad confesses that he slept with the bride. And then there are those couples who would never have gotten together at all but for the unexpected turns of life and time.

Like the stories, each song stands alone with a repetitive rock beat and idiosyncratic lyrics, like Nathanson’s introductory song, “Whoa, Craa-a-a-a-azy/ I hope you know I’m craaaaaazy.” Others, like, “Dancing by Myself,” have a sincere simplicity.

The black box theater has a small platform for the band in the corner and rafters where characters perch. The audience is seated along two sides of the stage. The set iscompactly designed by Kevin Judge, with a back wall of liquor bottles that designer Joe Skowronski imaginatively lights for different moods. Obviously, Emily DeAngelis has been watching today’s 20-somethings since her costumes for the girls are cute and tight and the guys are usually scruffy, with a shirts-out, shoelaces-untied look, perfect look for this show.

For young adult audience who wants to see something contemporary and quirky, LoveSick or Things That Don’t Happen is sharp, funny, and relevant. For everyone else, in Nathanson’s closing words, “I hope you can walk out of here saying that at least it’s been better than Eat, Pray, Love."

Love Sick
Conceived by Lia Romeo
Book by Lia Romeo
Conceived and Directed by Michole Biancosino
Cast: Rian Alfiero; Joachim Boyle; Elizabeth Elkins, Barrett Hall, Melissa Hammans, Pat McRoberts, Michael Nathanson, Andrew William Smith, Teresa Stephenson, Aidan Sullivan, Jeff Tuohy, Joe Varca, Jessica Varley, Lisa Velten Smith.
Music and Lyrics: Tony Biancosino
Music Director: Jon Spurney
Set Design: Kevin Judge
Costume Design: Emily DeAngelis
Production Stage Manager: Lizzie Lee
Lighting Design: Joseph R. Skowronski and Ben Hagen
Running Time: 1 hour, 20 min. no intermission
Theater: 59E59 Theaters. (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues).
Tickets: $25. ($17.50 for 59E59 Members). (212)
Performances: Tues–Thurs. at 7:30 PM; Fri. and Sat. at 8:30 PM; Sun. at 3:30 PM.
Previews, 2/03/12. Opens 2/09/12. Closes 2/25/12.
Review by Elizabeth Ahlfors based on performance 2/05/12
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