I'm embarrassed that I haven't made the time to write about an amazing off-Broadway play I saw a week ago [I have my excuses; we were busy electing our next president, and I've been trying to single-handedly keep the financial sytem from failing. But I digress. . . ].
Love Child is the brainchild of Daniel Jenkins and Robert Stanton, veterans of Broadway, off-Broadway, television, and film. It's a play about the theater -- and that would have been enough for me, as the creators are smart, literate, witty, and likable. But it turned out to be a lot more.
I thought from the brief publicity pieces I'd seen around the web and YouTube that I might be seeing a paean to the theater, or more specifically an actor's celebration of that experience. It turned out to be a really amazing ballet, comedy, and deep drama about family, aging, and acceptance. And the theater.
Since I'm not qualified or capable of giving a review of a theatrical presentation [I lack the vocabulary, insight, or focus to do it], I can only give my impressions -- and that's what they are. They probably say more about me than the play, so I'll keep it short, since the play should do the talking.
The action takes place in multiple locations, and involves multiple characters [seven main characters, in my estimation] -- all staged on a bare set [save for chairs], and performed by the two creators. That's where the ballet begins -- the actors are, in real time, performing multiple characters -- who are frequently in scenes together.
The characterizations alone would be an acting tour de force -- it's amazing to see the same tall, slender man portraying an aged, somewhat haggard old performer, and a middle-aged yenta of an agent, with a stage manager thrown in. All beautiful, nuanced performances. But to seamlessly shift from character to character, over the course of more than an hour, with only the body to convey that change -- fucking amazing. The lighting director joined the choreographer and the actors in bringing it all to an eventual frantic pace, with stop-on-a-dime performances all done on a high wire.
Although I laughed my ass off throughout, and it's clearly a comic gem, I ultimately came away touched by the story. Without giving the tale away [and it's hard for me to summarize in a blog post without going awry], the play-within-a-play-within-a-play touched me. As someone on a too-late quest to learn to accept myself and navigate my remaining life from within rather than guided by the buoys provided by others [family/friends/career], it spoke to me. My inability to convey how says a ton about me, not about the play.
It will run another week, until November 19. I hope everyone in New York grabs the great good fortune to see it.
PS The theater is a fantastic site -- 59 East 59th Street. The perfect venue for the play.
PPSS I stole this photo from Primary Stages, which produced/staged the play. I hope that they don't sue me [fair use! fair use! non-profit-fair-use!]
PPPSSS I see here that the New York Times also got it!