Play Review: ‘Love/Sick’ Is Both Humorous and Touching

By J.E. Ballantyne Jr.
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Happy Valentines Day! Or is it? If you ask the nine couples portrayed in “Love/ Sick,” which opened at the Youngstown Playhouse Friday night, they may not be able to tell you one way or the other.

“Love/Sick,” by John Cariani, is a hodgepodge of romantic relationships told in nine different short vignettes. Each one has some tie or some connection to The Super Center, a store where you can buy anything and everything, and also meet people from everywhere and anywhere.

Each scene carries its own descriptive title.

In the “Obsessive Impulsive” scene, the audience meets simply Man and Woman, who are both doing their grocery shopping. Played by Paul Dahman and Makenna Liller, they instantly fall in love at first sight, or they think they do. This is perhaps the most cleverly written piece of the entire show as each character speaks the same lines in unison to each other. Timing, energy and pacing are of the essence and both actors pull it off to perfection.

But things change a bit in “The Singing Telegram” as David Leach, on his first day on the job as a Singing Telegram Man, knocks on Louise’s apartment door to deliver his first telegram. Rhonda Dam does well with the character of Louise as she runs a gamut of emotions in a very short time. Leach plays the awkward, unsure singer with humor and tact.

The Super Center then takes us to Andy’s front stoop in “What?!?” A surprise visit by Ben (Kage Jonas Coven) puts Andy (Eric McCrea) in an awkward position that turns confusing for Andy. Their new relationship is barely off the ground when Andy throws a major obstacle in the way. Both actors play the uncertainty of the situation very well as they tip-toe their way to a solution.

“The Answer” starts out very reminiscent of Neil Simon’s “Plaza Suite” except instead of the bride being locked in the bathroom, it’s the groom. But the similarities stop there. Keith, played by Adam Dominick, has apparently never said “yes” to Celia’s (Sydney Taylor Campbell) marriage proposal. The problem is that the wedding is that day. Both actors play the absurdity of the piece well and convey the humor without a hitch. Both develop the short scene smoothly as they travel through numerous emotional levels

Boredom is the culprit in “Uh-Oh,” with Sarah (Rachael Conrad) feeling bored in her relationship with Billie (Nailah Thomas). Another absurdish piece, this one turns a little more dramatic than some of the others but the humor is still there. Rachael Conrad sells the role very well and pulls the audience into her mindset. Thomas plays off of her well, which helps to set up the payoff.

“Lunch and Dinner” takes the audience into the bedroom of Kelly (Liz Conrad) and Mark (Jason Green). Another cleverly written piece, both characters are actually of the same mindset in a sort of reverse direction. The actors handle the quick banter back and forth very well, which helps to create much of the comedy. A fun piece done very well as the actors spar back and forth.

“Forgot,” with Brian Suchora and Tricia Terlesky, is as dramatic as it is humorous. Both Terlesky and Suchora fit their characters well and each gives a performance that helps to underscore the other. Again, clever writing helps to sustain the short but enjoyable scene. Suchora’s calmness and reassurance plays well against Terlesky’s frantic emotional state.

“Where Was I” is probably the sleeper piece of the entire show. Abbie (Rosalyn Blystone) and Liz (Jenna Cintavey) have been together for awhile with a family gathered around them. This one sort of sneaks up on the audience with its powerful material. Little humor here. Both Blystone and Cintavey roll out their best as the audience is pulled in to an agonizing search for a lost soul. Blystone is particularly strong as a woman on the edge.

“Destiny” takes the audience back to The Super Center where it meets Emily, played by Brenda Zyvith, and Jake, portrayed by Aaron Newell. A chance meeting of the two characters sets memories afloat. Both Zyvith and Newell handle the characters well and help to tie up the rest of the evening. This last piece actually ends up borrowing from each piece that came before, making for an interesting exit piece. Interestingly, all of the pieces end in a sort of limbo, leaving the audience hanging on any kind outcome for each character.

“Love/Sick” is an interesting choice for a Valentines Day show. Quite different from the standard offerings. Director Rosalyn Blystone has cast the show well. Usually done with four actors, she opted for 18. A bold choice but it paid off for her, as each vignette certainly had its own flavor and distinct and different characters and characterizations. Well done.

Blystone was also responsible for set design, which was sparse but imaginative. Limited set pieces were moved and turned for each individual scene with some additions here and there. The choreography of the set changes was very well thought out and were as much fun to watch as the show. Kudos to all.

“Love/Sick” isn’t your run of the mill show of any variety. Both dramatic and funny, the characters are real and may make you think back on some relationship you had in the past. But it is also a show that can make you think about the value of relationships even though getting them to where we all want them to be isn’t always easy.

“Love/Sick” continues Feb. 10, 16, 17 at 7:30 p.m.; Feb. 11, 18 2:30 p.m.

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