News Column

REVIEW: Lots to enjoy in Public Theatre's 'Love/Sick' [Sun Journal (Lewiston, ME)]

October 23, 2013

YellowBrix

LEWISTON -- "Love/Sick," John Cariani's new play at The Public Theatre, takes his audiences along the unpredictable paths of 10 romantic minefields. Some lead to happiness or, at least, hope. Others skirt the explosive consequences, and some end in heartbreak.

Actors Heather Dilly and William Peden in a scene from "Love/ Sick" currently playing at The Public Theatre.

Cast in a stylistic mold similar to Cariani's popular "Almost, Maine," this play takes place mostly in one suburban house and at the same hour of early evening, with nine couples simultaneously addressing various issues of life.

Opening weekend audiences warmly welcomed "Love/Sick." Remaining opportunities to catch this highly entertaining and thought- provoking play are Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 24-27.

Director Christopher Schario and a quartet of talented actors offer up an appealing blend of fast-paced humor with lots of unanticipated U-turns and about-faces in a cleverly constructed plot.

Excellent performances in the show's multiple roles are given by Heather Dilly, William Peden, Sarah Corey and Torsten Hillhouse, all actors with solid New York stage credentials.

In the first scene, Dilly and Peden set a frantic tempo when their love-at-first-sight meeting at a mall is found to be based on their mutually uncontrollable obsessive-compulsive behavior.

A singing telegram man (played by Hillhouse) appears to be bringing joyful news to Corey, who's awaiting word from her betrothed, but things are not always as they seem ... especially in Cariani's plays. This vignette swings from comedy to sadness in the manner that audiences generally admire in Cariani's work.

Another skit pairs Hillhouse and Peden for a clever routine in which the words, "I love you," literally land on deaf ears.

There's also a piece in which a bride with cold feet must decide whether she actually gave an answer to the groom's proposal. Most of this scene is played by Peden and Dilly on opposite sides of a bathroom door.

"Lunch and Dinner" is the title of the scene in which Hillhouse and Dilly slip up and reveal some indiscretions. "Where Was I?" has Corey and Dilly taking a poignant look at their relationship, and "Forgot" has Peden and Dilly at odds on whether they should have a baby.

Another good scene skirts around some murderous overtones as a bored housewife (Corey) pulls a practical joke on her husband (Hillhouse).

There are plenty of twists and turns as Cariani's characters stumble through life's uncertainties. Often their choices are ambiguous, and they often discover that life is much like Forrest Gump said it would be ... a box of chocolates, and you never know what you will get.

Audiences experience the same uncertainty as the various segments are revealed.

Cariani's concept for simultaneous exposition of the various viewpoints of a theme work well in "Love/Sick." The dialogue in the final scene is a whirlwind reprise of the preceding relationships.

The play's lines get a rapid-fire delivery most of the time. It's a style common to each of the segments, and there's a feeling that it would be nice to catch a little more of the conversation's substance.

Cariani packs his plays with a wealth of thought-provoking detail. Dilly, Peden and Corey have appeared in previous TPT productions. Hillhouse has been seen in Theater at Monmouth shows.

Schario, TPT's executive/artistic director, and Maine playwright Cariani are presenting the latest version of "Love/Sick," which included script changes Cariani sent to Schario in just the past couple of weeks. The play is approaching publication, with Cariani hoping it will achieve the success of "Almost, Maine," which went from Off-Broadway in 2006 to most-produced play in high schools (topping even Shakespeare) in 2010.

Remaining performances of "Love/Sick" are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Oct. 24-25; 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26; 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 27, with an added matinee at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26.

For tickets call the box office at 782-3200 or go online to www.thepublictheatre.org. The Public Theatre is at 31 Maple St. in downtown Lewiston.

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