Sweet Love Adieu
nytheatre.com review by Josh Sherman
March 16, 2007
Pray ye welcome, good friends, to this night's play;
God's teeth, I wish ye'd been here yesterday!
- from the prologue of Sweet Love Adieu
I do believe that Shakespeare quite often referenced omens, foreshadowing and the like. Because hindsight is 20/20, I can only back-reference that the first two lines of this piece by Ryan J-W Smith would reverberate as ominous in tone, because it seemed like Sweet Love Adieu would be a pleasant evening's diversion. Alas, it was not to be, as via the static direction from Don Harvey, Sweet Love Adieu devolves quickly into a series of recitatives with a total lack of interaction amongst the players. Despite a relatively engaging cast, this piece is two-dimensional and comes across completely flat.
The premise is engaging enough. Smith writes in verse, in iambic pentameter, and in relatively modern language and tone. So on paper, Smith deserves unmitigated praise for tackling such a feat, and making it coherent. But to paraphrase from the sports world, they don't perform the plays on paper—and the transition from page to stage comes across as stilted and dull. Smith's tale is loosely based on Romeo and Juliet, only making it into a romantic comedy rather than a double-suicide, and substituting a young William for Romeo and a young Anne for Juliet. Liberally borrowing character names and affectations from the Shakespearean canon, Smith's piece plays out much like a standard sitcom would, minus the laugh track, through most of the play.
In the hysterically funny satire The Complete Works of William Shakespeare [Abridged], the players sum up all of Shakespeare's comedies in three minutes. Smith must have seen that bit as well—and if you have, you will find Sweet Love Adieu predictable for sure. But because Shakespeare's comedies are by their very nature predictable, you could get around that if the direction would allow the stakes to be raised enough to make you believe the situations, or at least make you laugh until the desired outcome is reached.
The plot of Sweet Love Adieu revolves around a love-sick William (played by Marcel Simoneau) who instantly falls for Anne Beaumont (Amanda McCroskery), who is the ward of the stereotyped villain Lord Edmund (Kenneth Cavett). When Edmund decides that he will have Anne as his bride, William and Anne become secret lovers as they plot with their friends, cousins, mothers, and friars to outwit the nefarious Edmund and his feckless manservant Sidney (Ashley Springer). Homage is paid to Shakespeare's comedies through cross-dressing, period music, marginal swordplay, and a happy ending.
There are a few good turns here. As William, Simoneau acquits himself well as the smitten poet, looking and sounding like a charming young Tom Cruise (circa Risky Business). Cavett chews a whole bunch of scenery (not that there is any, it's done virtually in a black box) as Edmund, which yields moments of legitimate hilarity. Tom Lapke fares the the best of the bunch as William's friend Ridley, a commitment-phobic drinking buddy character who provides some much needed relief from the sticky-sweetness of many of the romantic sequences.
But unfortunately there is not much else to recommend about this production. All of the action plays out to the audience and the majority of the actors resort to monologue-ing, whether scripted or directed to. There's little in the way of real drama, since the play itself skims off the top of Shakespeare's lighter fare.
The staging at the very outset of Sweet Love Adieu, ironically enough, is the cleverest part, as the company comes in as a troupe, setting up the bare stage with benches, staying in the "actors warmup" mode for a bit, before beginning the prologue to the play. They seemed playful, loose and honest, and seemed ready to take us on a humorous, romantic ride. Somewhere, the troupe lost its sense of playing—and with it my interest in the piece itself.