Sunday, May 17, 2015

Review: It's Love Sitcom-syle in LOVE AGAIN at The Group Rep

Renee Gorsey, Amy Gillette, Paul Cady, Lloyd Pedersen, and
Janet Wood. Photos by Doug Engalls

Three short musicals about the complications of love make up the world premiere of
Love Again playing at The Group Rep in North Hollywood. Though light on substance – each piece is only 30 minutes in length – this one-act musical still takes the audience on a pleasant journey through three scenarios where love may or may not conquer all.

In the first, In a Different Light, kismet brings two college sweethearts together after twenty years while traveling in Paris with their spouses. He’s (Paul Cady) there on business with his wife (Amy Gillette) and boss (Renee Gorsey); she’s (Janet Wood) vacationing with her husband (Lloyd Pedersen) on their second honeymoon. Neither has forgotten the other and as they reconnect over drinks, with all their assorted baggage in tow, they must decide whether to act on their feelings.

In the second, Two Lives, a car accident leaves longtime pals Loretta (Debi Tinsley) and Fanny (Michele Bernath) in the hospital on life support while family members place their lives on hold to be with them. Though brain dead, in fantasy sequences we’re privy to their very active – and often humorous – inner life as Fanny attempts to play matchmaker for her son (Andrew Curtis Stark) and the nurse who cares for her (Kathleen Chen), and Loretta comes to terms with whether her husband (Lloyd Pedersen) will take her off the machines before she’s ready.

The third, Forget-Me-Not, concerns a financially-strapped couple (Cady and Wood) who considers moving his parents (Bernath and Pedersen) – both of whom suffer from memory loss – into their son’s (Elijah Tomlinson) room without reminding them they’re divorced.

Lloyd Pedersen, Andrew Curtis Stark, and Elijah Thomlinson

Collectively, bookwriter Doug Haverty’s stories have the feel of an early 1970’s or ‘80’s sitcom like The Love Boat and Love American Style. But while the setups are fun, there is little time to develop the conflicts so the pieces end up feeling predictable and somewhat thin, especially with their intentionally unresolved endings. It’s definitely light romantic comedy, heavy on the light.

Composer Adryan Russ has a way with a sentimental ballad and her music never fails to pull on the heart strings. Rich choral harmonies show off the cast en masse. Amy Gillette and Kathleen Chen soar in the category of ‘leading ladies with lovely soprano voices’ and baritone Paul Cady is grounded as the ‘earnest leading man.’ Also moving is the male trio of Pedersen, Stark, and Tomlinson, who sing of the war days in one of the few serious moments in the show. Musical director Richard Berent’s instrumental arrangements are crisp and easily heard but I wondered if the actors were having trouble with the tracks as several individuals had difficulty staying in time and in tune during their solos. Director Kay Cole’s serviceable staging keeps the overall movement of the show fluid, adding some light dance staging to enhance character personalities.

Distracting, however, was the teal, pink, and purple set design in which everything – walls, floors, tables, benches, chairs – was painted to resemble an impressionistic painting. Others may find the effect unobtrusive. For me, it was overwhelming.

The cast of Love Again

LOVE AGAIN
May 15 - June 28, 2015
The Group Rep
10900 Burbank Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91601
Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00 pm; Sundays at 2:00 pm
Talk-back Sundays after the show May 24 and June 7
Tickets: (818) 763-5990 or www.thegrouprep.com

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Comedy Faceposted by Ellen Dostal, MusicalsInLA @
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