There’s just enough to love about Luv, American Style, Infinite Jest’s quirky romantic comedy inspired by the 70s TV show “Love, American Style.” The piece is comprised of four one-acts: Cherie Vogelstein’s A Date with a Stranger, David Lindsay-Abaire’s Crazy Eights, Christopher Demos-Brown’s Mallory Square, and David Ives’ Sure Thing. As every episode of “Love, American Style,” was titled “Love and…,” each one-act has [Luv and] tacked onto it.
Another homage to that 70s television series happens during each set change when videos are projected onto flats upstage with cute, kitschy shorts, akin to the vignettes that played between the main stories on “Love, American Style.” Videographer Keegan Cassady and Composer Evan Heiter lend their talents well to the charming videos.
In [Luv and] A Date with a Stranger, directed by George Grant, Kathryn Winkler and Klenn Harrigan play Paula and Clark, a couple who meet at a Johnny Rockets, and quickly become entangled in confusing flirtation. Winkler plays Paula with great wide eyed surprise, never betraying her true motives. Harrigan’s performance is a bit stale, and despite the dialogue detailing Clark’s desire, I didn’t really believe he had any for Winkler’s cheerfully calculating Paula.
Evan Crump as Man plays a nuanced eavesdropper who tunes in to the couple’s more colorful outbursts. George Grant’s directing is a tad weak in this piece, as the scene didn’t build much, and the stakes didn’t feel high to begin with.
[Luv and] Crazy Eights features the two standouts from the cast; Jennifer Robison (Connie) and Nello DeBlasio (Benny) go toe to toe in a high energy, high stakes power play. DeBlasio plays a rough-around-the-edges parole officer who’s fallen for Robinson, a loud mouthed, well-meaning parolee. Under Stephen Jarrett’s direction, the two turn in natural performances and make great use of the space.
From their voices to their swaggers, the pair are entirely believable as Connie and Benny. Robison has an incredibly expressive face, and it’s fantastic to watch her figure out what DeBlasio’s been up to as he accidentally lets on to ways that he’s broken parole officer procedure to see her. DeBlasio is sweet, determined, and beautifully vulnerable. There’s not a dull moment, not an out of place one. Jorge Silva as Cliff and Bill Gordon as the unseen Mr. Dugan round out the cast, both with natural performances. At the end of this scene, the energy in the room was electric.
(Example of a video which plays between scenes)
The wet blanket of a show was [Luv and] Mallory Square, directed by Grant. Winkler and Harrigan are back as married couple Jen and Andy. They’re joined by another couple, Crump as Sean and Charles Lee as Josh. Crump once again delivers a nuanced, natural performance, but he is the shining beacon of the scene. It seems that when Lee is not speaking, he is also not listening and not engaged. His delivery sounds as if he’s reading from a book, not living in a moment.
Winkler and Harrigan work around it, and Crump deftly works with the limp scene partner as he plays a supportive boyfriend, but Lee drags the scene down. As Mallory Square opened, Sean and Josh asked Jen to be a surrogate for them. Both Jen and Andy have some reservations about the idea of Jen carrying a baby for the other couple, and about them taking on parenthood in general. The stakes ought to be high here, but instead they are nowhere to be found.
Luv, American Style
by Cherie Vogelstein, David Lindsay-Abaire, Christopher Demos-Brown and David Ives
at Redrum – Fort Fringe
610 L Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
Details and tickets
Every time the bell rings and the scene falls back a few beats, DeBlasio and Robison hop in with renewed vigor and the contrast from one choice to the next is grand.
Like any love affair, Luv, American Style has its ups and downs, but the highs are much higher than the lows. Robison, DeBlasio, and Crump are sharp, giving, and a joy to watch, Winkler and Harrigan hold their own, and the 70s style video interludes are a treat. It is worth powering through Mallory Square to see the gems the other scenes hold. Hell, the tight back and forth of Sure Thing is worth the price of admission on its own.