Theater Review: 'Love/Sick'

By: 
Ben Miles

John Cariani is not only known for performing as the character Julian Beck, the forensics specialist on the long-running TV program “Law & Order,” he was also nominated for a Tony Award for his role as Motel the tailor in the 2004 Broadway revival of “Fiddler on the Roof.” Cariani’s acting is presently on Broadway display in the Tony-acclaimed musical “The Band’s Visit.”

What many readers (and watchers) may not know is that Cariani is a prolific playwright in his own right. He’s authored such popularly produced scripts as “Almost, Maine,” “Cul-De-Sac” and “Last Gas”; and now, SoCal theatergoers have the opportunity to experience Cariani’s 2010 play “Love/Sick” at Long Beach Playhouse’s Studio Theatre, through July 7.

Directed by Shinshin Yoder Tsai, who has an astute ear for the timing of comedy dialogue and a good grasp of physical humor, maximizes his talented cast of eight players in multiple roles to bring life and laughter to nine individual vignettes — each somehow connected to the so-called “Supercenter”, which appears to sell or oblige just about any thing the characters call for, including a handgun, a singing telegraph or a four-pack of mini-bottles of wine (the utilitarian set design is by Catherine Mack).

The initial vignette is titled “Obsessive Impulsive,” and is about a man and a woman (played by Devon DeLamora and Maria V. Oliveira) who can’t keep their hands, their lips or thoughts from one another. This is an energetic opening and a fun way to get the love and the sick themes rolling.

The other eight scenes (“The Singing Telegram”; “What?!?”; “The Answer”; “Uh-Oh”; ”Lunch And Dinner”; “Forgot”; “Where Was I?”; and “Destiny”) like the first one, all follow themes that are reminiscent of the TV show “Love American Style,” except with the 21st century twist of connecting each little story within the context of a big box discount retailer. This quirky conceit, however, does not cheapen the proceedings and, in fact, becomes a sort of running gag in the “Love/Sick” scenarios.

In addition to the endearing performances of DeLamora and Oliveira (who also show their acting range in portraying other characters in separate vignettes) other fine characterizations are provided by Elijah Douglas as the singing telegram man; Karen Owens as the woman to whom he sings; John Phelan who plays Andy the emotionally challenged subject of another man’s affection in “What?!?”; Elspeth Carden as the blindfolded bride opposite William Jaramillo as the ambivalent groom-to-be in “The Answer”; and Holland Renton as an biological-clock concerned wife of seven years who has her own untimely itch in “Forgot.”

In less than two hours we in the audience receive — thanks to the vision of Director Tsai and his marvelous ensemble of performers — Playwright Cariani’s message: Love’s like a sickness and that truth and humor have the power to become love sickness’s balm.

“Love/Sick” continues in the Studio Theatre of the Long Beach Playhouse through July 7.

Evening performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Matinees are Sundays at 2 p.m.

For reservations, call (562)494-1014; for online ticketing, visit boxoffice@lbplayhouse.org.

ben@beachcomber.news

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