nytheatre.com review by David Gordon
October 26, 2008
Daniel Jenkins and Robert Stanton are delivering comic tour-de-force performances in Love Child, their two-man ode to theatre and that biz called show. Intensely directed by Carl Forsman, Love Child is produced by Primary Stages and performed in repertory with Lee Blessing's A Body of Water, at 59E59's Theater A.
Love Child uses the same theatrical device as the Broadway production of The 39 Steps. Jenkins and Stanton effortlessly navigate their way through more than ten (I lost count) roles of differing genders and ethnicities, providing every sound effect along the way, as well, from cell phones to bathroom hand-dryers.
The title stems from the show that Joel (Jenkins's main character) is staging and starring in, at a theater in Red Hook, Brooklyn, next to a sausage factory. This "Love Child" is a modern adaptation of Ion, a lesser-known play by Euripides. Joel surmises that it's not well-known because it ends relatively happily. For those interested, a summary of Ion can be found here.
Pretty soon, life is imitating art as audience members Ethel and Kay (one of whom happens to be Joel's agent and mother) get into the act, only to be joined by Joel's gay father. The audience of the show in Red Hook, meanwhile, has no idea that what's going on isn't staged, as the idea is relatively similar to that which is going on during the show.
Yes, it's slightly confusing, but Jenkins and Stanton are so admirable that one can look past the rough patches in the outrageous script, and the fact that the piece goes on for about ten minutes past its welcome. There are a number of great, great lines in the script. My particular favorite occurs when Stanton, as an older actress with an affected British accent, stalks off the stage after hearing a cell phone ring in the crowd. She's quitting acting and going "where the audience is as good as dead...cruise ships...auto shows...Manhattan Theatre Club..." (Cue laughs from the frequent theatergoers in the audience.)
Running in repertory with an entirely unrelated production could provide for difficulties, but set designer Neil Patel doesn't let his work on Body get in his way. His pieces are covered with drop cloths that end up serving in Love Child's favor. Forsman manages to mine the material for as much sincerity as laughs. The last few moments are especially poignant. His staging is unapologetically breathless and serves the material very well.
It would be interesting to see other actors in the roles, but Jenkins and Stanton are irreplaceable. Their performances are truly something to behold.