nytheatre.com review by Naomi McDougall Jones
August 12, 2012
Inexperienced Love is a delightful musical written, directed, designed, and performed by a group of enterprising and talented Carnegie Mellon students.
The six-character piece is a series of short song vignettes that detail the relationships of three college-age couples (how they are related to each other becomes clear as the show goes on). There’s Jake (Jacob Tischler who also wrote the book, music, and lyrics) who has recently-sort-of-accidentally broken up with his girlfriend and now can’t stop himself from constantly calling her. There’s Jake’s jilted girlfriend, Penny (Casey Layne Anderson), who has started a blog to avenge her heartbreak. There are Frank (Jon Jorgenson) and Emma (Olivia Harris), the long(er)-term couple, whose relationship seems to be the stablest of all, but is actually on the rocks due to Frank’s lofty career ambitions. And there are Ruthie (Emily Koch) and Jameson (Trevor McQueen) the “nerds” who, against the odds, maneuver a date with each other and then spend the evening letting each other down in various, entertaining ways.
The cast is filled with astoundingly good voices and it is a pleasure to listen to them have fun as they play with Tischler’s floaty, flirty melodies. The show serves as an impressive showcase for these performers and I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear a great deal more about all of them once they graduate. The performers are backed up by a strong, four-piece band, which further strengthens the show since it is almost entirely musical numbers.
The set design is striking from the moment you enter the theater: the entire stage is filled with nothing but a large number of red, heart-shaped helium balloons tethered to the ground. This fun and whimsical idea seems troublesome in the first part of the show, as there is little interaction with them and the cast seems to be mainly avoiding them, but really takes off towards the end, as the balloons become inventive props with which to tell the story.
The story material is not groundbreaking: young love. But I imagine most people would recognize a little of their college-age selves in each of the characters (I certainly did) and it’s precisely that familiarity that endears it to us so much. Additionally, the story is told with so much enthusiasm, joy, and talent that it’s hard to leave the theater without the warm and fuzzies. It’s practically a time machine back to the exuberance, delirium, insecurity, heartache, ecstasy, and awkwardness of inexperienced love.