nytheatre.com review by Fred Backus
August 2, 2008
Marc Castle's Love, Inc. is one of three new works being presented in the Midtown International Theatre Festival's new Commercial Division, and it more than lives up to the term "commercial." A well-rehearsed and smoothly-executed musical comedy performed and directed by talented professionals, it is also vapid, predictable, and utterly gutless. If you like your theatre blandly digestible, this one is for you.
Faith Stillman, a frumpy and timid single woman who somehow managed to make a fortune by the age of 30 in the dog-eat-dog world of marketing, has decided it's time to find a man. Faith has set her sights on her old flame from high school, Casey Janacek, now a Columbia Econ professor and weekly television personality, and to snare him she enlists the help of her sexpot neighbor Aura, who for no justifiable reason other than to advance the plot clumsily, can't seem to hold down a job. Faith hires Aura and a schmoozy actor named Landon Bragg to spy on Casey and turn Faith into his perfect woman—a "hot, honest, humanitarian blonde"—and "Love, Incorporated" is born.
One of the things Love, Inc. certainly does have going for it is good direction and a first-rate cast. Director Igor Goldin is clearly on top of his game, filling the stage with fun little comic bits and lots of effective movements. Jennifer Blood and Jonathan Rayson might have the most difficult jobs in the cast as Faith and Casey, the show's drippy love interests—they largely have to play it straight and do a pretty darned good job making their characters generally likeable, if not believable. Hollis Scarborough is sexy and fun as Aura, but she is also impressive in the underwritten part of Casey's ex-wife, Jen, capturing a completely different shade of bimbo and making the character more interesting than it has any right to be. The most flamboyant and outright funny performance belongs to Tally Sessions, who is explosive at times as the appropriately over-the-top Bragg and in a few other smaller roles. All four are solid performers who seem to share the type of ease and chemistry that launches sitcoms. They seem to be having great fun up there, and at many times they rise above the material.
They are also fine singers, but though the songs are invariably performed well, Castle's music and book certainly are appropriate to the piece in that they are as dopey and innocuous as the rest of the play. A couple of the tunes are interesting, such as the four-part melody of "Christmas Is" and the herky-jerky rhythm of "Connected." Mostly, however, the many songs are groovy, bland, and forgettable.
You can get away with either idiotic or predictable at times, but both together can be a little much, and as I waited patiently for Faith to "suddenly" come to her painfully inevitable realization about the merits of authenticity and honesty in the pursuit of love, and for Casey to "suddenly" realize what's really important to him in a woman, I couldn't help but have my mind drift to how one-dimensional these characters are and how clunky and unconvincing this plot is. Castle's main concern seems to be to make sure every edge is smoothly rounded and every moment has a glossy-coated shine, so that nothing interesting, edgy, or surprising could possibly intrude on the fuzzy-warm feeling this show seems meant to induce.