Infinite Jest co-founder Bill Gordon loves, loves, loves nostalgia. Nostalgia for a 1970s romantic comedy anthology series inspired Infinite Jest’s entry into the 2014 Capital Fringe Festival.
Gordon grew up watching reruns of Love, American Style. Actors such as a young Harrison Ford and a young Burt Reynolds appeared in short comedic sketches about love and romance: “Love and the Pill,” “Love and a Couple of Couples,” and in Ford’s case, “Love and the Former Marriage.”
“The plots were very simple, very bubblegum,” Gordon said.
When Gordon decided to pay homage to the television series, he opted for modern scripts and an edgier version of the original theme song, recorded for Infinite Jest by D.C.-area rock band MUNDY. Gordon also decided to carry over the TV show convention of using “Luv and…” as part of the title of each play. Out of respect for the playwrights, Gordon has placed the additional text in brackets (e.g., [Luv and] Crazy Eights) to make the actual title of each play clear to the audience.
The TV show featured 30-40 second vignettes between the main stories, and Infinite Jest has recreated five vignettes from the first season (1969-1970) that will be projected during scene changes between the four comedies that comprise Luv, American Style.
“I want people who remember the show to have the feeling of nostalgia,” Gordon said. “But I also want them to experience it through 21st century eyes, free of the heavy taboos of 1970s broadcast television. For instance, I was determined that we would include one same-sex play.”
Directed by Stephen Jarrett and George Grant, this production will feature four one-act views of Luv, American Style set in the Washington, D.C. area.
Theater goers should expect “to laugh like hell,” Jarrett said, adding, “They are very emotional plays. The emotion is very real because I think that’s what makes things funny. It always comes down to the truth, otherwise you’ve got nothing but gags. Gags are funny, but jokes work because of truth.”
Paula (Kathryn Winkler) and Clark (Klenn Harrigan) slide from flirtation to finale in a side-splitting 10-minute conversation about their relationship in Cherie Vogelstein’s [Luv and a] Date With a Stranger.
[Luv and the] Sure Thing by David Ives will remind audiences of Groundhog Day. Two strangers stumble through a conversational minefield of false starts and gaffes. Jennifer Robinson, who plays Betty in Sure Thing, was attracted to Ives’ script.
“I laughed so hard I woke my daughter up,” Robison said. “It is very sharp, very smart and very realistic despite its witty comic style.”
Robinson related to Betty’s experience of being on a great date, only to have Mr. Right blurt out something off putting or offensive.
As with most of her cast mates, Robison does double duty in Luv, American Style. She also plays Connie in David Lindsay-Abaire’s [Luv and] Crazy Eights. Connie comes home late to find an unexpected visitor in her kitchen with a fresh-baked torte and a list of questions. The interrogation is interrupted by the arrival of Connie’s regularly scheduled late-night guest.
“I like to think of Connie as being from New York, but she has been transplanted to D.C. to get over her habits. She’s seen a lot of horrible things from being an addict. She’s been to jail,” Robison said. “This is her chance to start new.”
Unfortunately, her visitors may interfere with Connie’s agenda. Playing an earthy, gritty, no-nonsense gal has proven challenging for Robison given the funny lines of her cast mates Nello DeBlasio and Jorge Silva.
“Both of the guys do such a fantastic job. They’re cracking me up in rehearsals. I’m praying I can get rid of the giggles because I have to be straight laced,” Robison said.
In Christopher Demos-Brown’s [Luv and] Mallory Square, friendship is put to the test on a double date.
“What drew me to Mallory Square is it is a very modern story,” Klenn Harrigan said. “I’m 23, and I have friends who are starting to settle down and thinking about kids. As someone on the outside looking in, it is interesting to see them process it. Mallory Square is a story about people who are making life-altering decisions.”
Luv, American Style is showing at Fort Fringe – Redrum, 612 L Street NW, Washington, DC 20001. Performances are: July 13 at 2:15 p.m.; July 17 at 8 p.m.; July 19 at 8:45 p.m.; July 25 at 10 p.m.; July 27 at 12:15 p.m.
Details and tickets or call 866-811-4111.
For more information, visit the Infinite Jest website at infinitejesttheatre.org.
Written by guest writer Megan Kuhn, Infinite Jest Marketing Department. Megan Kuhn is a theater fan, financial literacy advocate and occasional freelance journalist.