Sunday, October 9, 2016

Love, Love, Love *** B

Mike Bartlett’s (Cock, Bull, King Charles III) 2010 unflattering portrait of the British generation born around 1950 has arrived in New York at Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theatre. It follows a young self-absorbed couple over a 40+ year period. Kenneth (Richard Armitage) is freeloading in his hardworking older brother Henry’s (Alex Hurt) shabby London flat during his summer break from Oxford. When Henry brings home a date, the free-spirited Sandra (Amy Ryan), it does not turn out well for him. In the second act, set in a modern, attractive suburban home about 20 years later, Kenneth and Sandra have two teen-aged children — Rose (Zoe Kazan), a devoted violin student about to celebrate her 16th birthday and Jamie (Ben Rosenfield), a few years younger. It is clear that the couple feel hemmed in by their marriage and are not exactly model parents. In the final act, another 20 years later, we find Kenneth and Sandra in self-satisfied retirement while their adult children are floundering. The first act entertainingly sets up the central relationship. The second act, by far the most entertaining of the three, vividly shows how their situation has developed. The final act, alas, turns a bit polemical as Rose blames her parents and, by extension, their generation for her own problems. The dialog is sharp and the situations often amusing. You may cringe, but you’ll probably laugh. Amy Ryan is sensational, worth the price of admission. Richard Armitage and Zoe Kazan are also strong. Alex Hurt does his best with a one-note character and Ben Rosenfeld, with an underwritten one. The three distinct sets by Derek McClane and the period costumes by Susan Hilferty establish the time and place well. In the final act, more could have been done with makeup and wigs to make them look their age. Michael Mayer’s direction is assured and fluid. A few of the British references do not travel well. The ironic title comes from a Beatles lyric. If you appreciate fine acting and want to keep up with the works of an acclaimed contemporary playwright, you will probably find the play worthwhile. If you need sympathetic characters to identify with, you will probably not. Running time: 2 hours 5 minutes, including two intermissions.

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